Money, power, religion, and the lust for them all: these are the images that sum up America. We are a country driven by these defining features, as much as we try to deny it. What makes some of the greatest American films so great is that they approach these features head on and expose them in all of their infamy. Some films that come to mind are The Godfather, Goodfellas, Citizen Kane, Nashville, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street, and of course, There Will Be Blood.
So Paul Thomas Anderson was basically releasing a different type of movie with each subsequent project, and his wide range of stories was creating serious buzz. Many actors were clamoring to work with him, and among those was Daniel Day-Lewis, who just so happens to be one of the greatest screen actors of all time. Anderson was in a London bookshop when he saw a copy of Upton Sinclair's novel, Oil!. Fascinated by it's cover, he read it and was immediately interested in adapting it to the screen. After extensive research and immersion in the history of the California oil industry, he began writing. Before he was finished with the first draft, Day-Lewis was signed on in the lead. It took another two years to finance, and finally in 2007, it was released to the world.
"There are times when I... I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money I can get away from everyone." - Daniel Plainview
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an oilman. He has numerous concerns across the state of California, and many wells that produce barrels of oil each day.
It is the turn of the century and Daniel is a struggling silver miner. One day, he stumbles upon oil deposits, and, seeing it to be a good venture, goes into the oil business full time.
After one of the drillers on his crew is killed in a freak accident, he takes the man's son, as his own, naming him H.W. (Dillon Freasier) and using him as a means of appearing to be a family man to investors, and by 1911, he is a rising star of the oil business.
One day, he meets a man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) who says that his family's property has oil running beneath it. Daniel goes to scout it and meets the entire Sunday family, including Paul's brother, Eli (also Paul Dano), a passionate pastor, and proceeds to buy the entire town of Little Boston. The rest of the film follows Daniel versus Eli, and Daniel's rise to the top, blinded by his own greed.
The film is slow and dark and plays like a horror movie. It plays on the themes of power and greed. Daniel is the businessman with no interest in anything but money, and Eli is the minister with no interest but a more powerful church. Both are violent, unchecked, and obsessed, willing to bypass all others to get what they want. I suppose they would be Psychopaths, but they are also synecdoches for their respective businesses: Oil and Religion. This film is thus a father son tale, as well as a story about the war of attrition between big business and religion: the story of the US.
There Will Be Blood is easily the best movie of the '00s, and definitely one of the best of all time. It is epic, engaging, disturbing, and leaves you speechless. Anderson's direction is just masterful, relying less on his previously signature dolly shots (though the camera moves plenty), in favor of long, static wide shots and slow push ins. The movie simply feels like dread, due to Johnny Greenwood's haunting score. The entire film plays like a Leone epic, which is something we just don't see anymore. In my rankings of Anderson's films, I would place it as my second favorite, which I will FINALLY be explaining in my next review.
There Will Be Blood was an enormous hit, both critically, and commercially. It is Anderson's highest grossing, and highest praised, film to date. It was nominated for eight Oscars, the most at that year's ceremony, and won two, Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis (who also won a slew of other awards for his performance), and Best Cinematography for Robert Elswit (I believe this to be his best work). In the opinion of this writer, it was completely snubbed for Best Picture (and I LOVE No Country For Old Men, but c'mon!) At the Berlin Film Festival, Paul Thomas Anderson won his second Golden Bear for Best Director. In total, the film one 117 awards, and was nominated for 100 others. It appeared on many critic's "Year's Best" and "Decade's Best" lists and is widely agreed to be a modern classic.
By the end of the 2007 Awards Season, Paul Thomas Anderson was considered one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. Since each of his films had been a huge surprise, and completely different in tone and style from each preceding film, it was officially impossible to figure out what to expect, other than a great film. Eventually people did ask him what was coming next, and then the buzz started. Paul Thomas Anderson was apparently going to tackle Scientology in his next film. Um...
Up Next: How to get rid of crabs