There Will Be Blood ★★★★★

Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" is a symphony wherein every note sounds clearly the destruction of greed, and every movement observes characters torn apart by lust for ownership, wealth, and fame. Both operatic and quiet, blaring and meditative, "There Will Be Blood" chronicles lives built up and undone by a thirst for goods both worldly and ephemeral.

Based on Upton Sinclair's novel, "Oil!" Anderson's film observes his protagonist, Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview, beginning the story as a rough and tumble prospector whose life is changed by an oil strike. A character study that tracks Plainview as he collects more, buys more, and reaches for more, the film is a cautionary tale. Marked by the classically told irony that as one possesses more, he loses more, the story ties Plainview to characters that are both analogous and disparate.

As the film is more about character and human nature than plot, it only makes sense to cast actors who can carry the tragic, dramatic, and all-too-human load. Daniel Day-Lewis is astounding as Plainview. With his glowering voice and unflinching glare, Day-Lewis imbues Plainview with a sound and physicality that are both dangerous and honest. He is a calculating man of business whose lusts drive out his humanity. Day-Lewis makes Plainview both larger-than-life and menacingly real.

The film gives Plainview two foils. One is his son, HW, played by Dillon Freasier; the other is Paul Dano's Eli Sunday. If anything, HW is Plainview's conscience, guiding Plainview's vacillating sense of humanity through life. He is also a symbol of Plainview's greed, an object collected and then thrown away by the prospector. Freasier presents young HW with wide-eyed control and maturity.

Dano's Sunday is simply another version of Plainview. He is a man with his own lusts. Though they may be spiritual in nature, he is as much a collector of followers and souls as Plainview is a hoarder of land and oil. When faced with each other, the actors create explosively electric scenes of anger and passion. Dano deftly stands toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis.

As with its casting, "There Will Be Blood" is masterfully crafted in all other cinematic areas. Cinematography is clear and steeped in a beauty of nature made unclean by human hands. Production design is handsome, and editing moves the film at a steady pace. Cameras observe the character beats and plot threads at an unobtrusive distance. They watch the action but never add to it; the fiery displays of character creating scenic energy. The film's score cements a tone that is deadly serious and brooding.

"There Will Be Blood" is archetypal, cinematic, literate and wholly excellent. It is a film that presents humanity and human beings as dangerous, destructive forces whose passions can be the undoing of themselves and those who share familial space with them. It illustrates the dangers of shrugging off salvation and argues that salvation is not always given by those who claim to offer it. It is an already iconic, fully engrossing, and masterfully rendered piece of film.

Travis liked these reviews