A movie that hits you like a fever, There Will Be Blood is not the type of story that gets told very often. A multi-layered portrait of all that comes with a desire for power, the film will leave audiences feeling exhausted and with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film is presented in an assured and confident manner. Anderson is the most naturally gifted filmmaker of his generation, a fact that is evident here. Packed with breathtaking shots and scenes of boiling intensity, the movie makes no apologies about its tendency towards the grandeur inherent in telling an epic story that spans decades. Perhaps the first thing that will strike viewers will be the unavoidable use of images that comes naturally when setting a story in the old west. However, Anderson's work also packs enough depth and complexity to let you know that it never relies solely on this foundation. Although ripe with symbolism, There Will Be Blood does not settle solely on the pretense offered by its images. Instead it gives us complex characters that prove to be the soul of the story.
The film is anchored by the powerful presence of Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a silver miner turned oilman. Day-Lewis' performance is a thing of beauty. Equal parts larger-than-life and nuanced, his Daniel Plainview perfectly embodies the spirit of a salesman while putting across the multiple layers required for the portrayal of a man with an all-too-human desire for power. Critics of Daniel Day-Lewis performance will say that his portrayal is far too theatrical, a criticism also given to his portrayal of Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. The reality is that Day-Lewis does not carry this to everyone of his performances. However, he knows when a character is supposed to be showman. Plainview is a salesman and without his exagerated mannerisms he would be nowhere as a businessman. What is truly outstanding is that, unlike other actors, Day-Lewis is able to bring out the more human aspects of Plainview what make him a fascinating character to watch.
Joining Day-Lewis is Paul Dano as Eli Sunday. Dano balances out his character appropriately, giving Sunday the calm and silent demeanor that stands in sharp contrast to his passion for religion. While Dano does not deliver the performance of his career in this film, he does show hints of tremendous talent in his portrayal of an evangelical preacher that stands in opposition of Plainview's search for power.
Providing the score for this conflict is Johnny Greenwood's haunting score. Greenwood manages to accentuate the barren desert setting with a score that is both minimalist and entrancing. The music enhances the dark, pessimistic, and the emotional tone of the film, while never taking the attention away from the acting.
There Will Be Blood is an achievement in cinematography, acting, writing and film-making unlike anything released in a while. It is a film that puts its focus on unlikable characters and dares to take you in deeper in spite of this fact. Like Raging Bull, it is a character study of a man who you would not normally want to know and who you will be unable to forget about, after it is all said and done.
Watching There Will Be Blood is a powerful and emotionally draining experience, and after seeing all five nominated for best picture this year, this is no doubt the one I would bet, though No Country For Old Men (which also deals with greed and what it does with simple men) is magnificent as well.