Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I watched a two-and-a-half hour movie and didn’t check the clock once.
“There Will Be Blood” stars Daniel Day Lewis as miner turned oil prospector Daniel Day Plainview. (sorry) We see Daniel doting on his infant son. Years pass, and Daniel has become successful in the oil business. He’s looking to expand, though. One night, a young man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) comes to see Daniel, telling him about this town where he could buy all the land he wanted and make a fortune. Daniel pays the kid off and he and his son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) move to the new town.
Daniel’s nemesis there is a charismatic, semi-lunatic young preacher named Eli Sunday (also Paul Dano). Eli is the good twin to his brother’s bad twin, sort of like Esau and Jacob in the Old Testament. There are some clashes, spiritual and otherwise, between the greedy oil tycoon and the small town preacher.
The film ends up as a battle between two spiritual opposites, framed in the oil boom of the early 20th Century.
The key to the whole movie is Daniel Day Lewis’s performance as Daniel Plainfield. He has a look that is part-handsome/part-evil. He can be effortlessly charming one minute, then effortlessly cruel the next. He also sounds just like John Huston. It isn’t just me–it says that on IMDB.com, so it must be true. John Huston had a wonderfully adaptive voice, both for charm and cruelty (think “Chinatown”), and Daniel Day Lewis nails it. His physical mannerisms, every move and glance are perfectly natural.
It’s funny. I watched another oil boom movie the other night, “Giant.” In “Giant,” James Dean plays Jett Rink, a dirtbag who ends up striking it rich. These two performances could not be more different. Whereas Daniel Day Lewis looked completely natural and unaffected as Plainview, James Dean was all twitchy and method-acting, over-emoting every eye blink or hat adjustment. Both “Giant” and “There Will Be Blood” are great films, but Daniel Day Lewis trumps James Dean’s before his first line of dialogue.
Paul Thomas Anderson does an amazing job both directing, and adapting from Upton Sinclair’s novel. Anderson has made some of the most interesting films of the last twenty years or so–“Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” to name two–and this, to me, is his finest work so far.
There’s an anecdote on IMDB.com that is too good not to share. The Coen Brothers were filming “No Country For Old Men” in a nearby part of Texas. For one scene in “There Will Be Blood,” there’s a giant oil well explosion. Apparently, the billowing smoke from the fire interfered with the Coen Brothers’s shooting, and they had to postpone for a day. (The Coen Brothers got revenge at the Oscars, when “No Country for Old Men” won Best Picture).
As far as Best Actor, though, Daniel Day Lewis proved why he’s the most highly regarded actor of his time, and this earned him his second Oscar.
I digress. “There Will Be Blood” is a long movie, but one that will ensorcel you so that you don’t notice. The story, screenplay and direction are top-notch, and the supporting actors–especially Paul Dano–even the scenery, are all note-perfect. Add in one hell of a masterful performance by Daniel Day Lewis, and you’ve struck cinematic oil.
(“There Will Be Blood,” Adapted and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; MPAA Rated R, for a few violent scenes; honestly, though, there’s barely any profanity, and no nudity, so I think PG-13 would be more appropriate, although younger kids would probably be bored)
“There Will Be Blood” is available on Netflix Streaming. (View it as soon as possible)