You won’t find subtlety in P T Anderson’s There Will Be Blood; from the grand scale locations to the larger than life characters, Anderson’s film feels truly epic. Yet don’t take this as a fault of the film, indeed it is the films epic quality that ensures its success.
Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil, There Will Be Blood tells the story of Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). After Plainview accidently discovers oil (and its monetary gains), he becomes set on sourcing further oil and thus gaining more wealth. After a tip off in which Plainview is told of oil rich land in California, his greed ultimately leads to a battle of wills between Plainview and Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, who also plays the small but pivotal role of Paul Sunday) the young minister of a church, culminating in the almost comic final scene of the film, as Plainview’s greed ultimately consumes him.
Day-Lewis deservedly won an Academy Award for his performance of a man entirely obsessed by greed, and indeed it is he on who the film rests upon. His performance is startling, utterly embodying the enigmatic character of Plainview. There is a distinct lack of character development, and whilst the audience is shown Plainview at the beginning of his ascent we never truly learn his motives and feelings. However, the lack of information that we have about the character ensures that the audience not only learns all they need to know, but they are kept at a distance from this ultimately lonely figure. In fact there is no dialogue for the first fifteen minutes of the film, in which we watch Plainview mining, working entirely by himself.
The cinematography adds to the almost mystical quality of the film, reminiscent of Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven, which was shot entirely during magic hour. Ultimately, this is an epic film showcasing the subversion of the American Dream, and deserves to be remembered as a true American Classic.