Gumby77’s review published on Letterboxd:
"THERE WILL BE BLOOD" was writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's first movie in over five years (at the time), and is pretty much about as complete an "about face" from his quirky romantic comedy "PUNCH DRUNK LOVE". It's not so much as a western as it is a southern gothic film about the early days of the oil industry and how greed corrupts men from different backgrounds. Loosely based on the 1927 novel "Oil!" by Upton Sinclair ... writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson hits "lightning in a bottle" with a film so rich of character ... so rich in plot ... so rich in technical marvel ... and so rich in performance ... it is an achievement in cinematic storytelling that's hard to ignore due to the impressive versatility of Paul Thomas Anderson's keen eye for visual details or his leading man with his riveting character moments. "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is a violent and jarring oil epic worthy of multiple viewings ... this rich and riveting story about how oil and money "corrupts" and ultimately "destroys" is endlessly fascinating despite the seeming simplicity of the premise.
Simply put, "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" in a masterpiece beyond words ... it is one of those rare films that just fires on all major "film cylinders" needed to make a successful film - beautifully photographed ... engaging characters ... multi-layered, evened-out, plot with multiple subplots ... heavily quoted ... brilliantly acted ... clear resolution. It's a film you could easily watch over and over again, and appreciate more and more for the vision Paul Thomas Anderson presented to us ... and the iconic, Oscar-winning, performance that Daniel Day-Lewis gave us.
In turn-of-the-century central California, an ambitious miner named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who is searching for gold and silver, strikes an oil cashcow and turns it into a business. With his appetite for money and power, he and his nine-year-old son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) move on to the Sunday homestead when one of their sons named Paul (Paul Dano), pays Daniel a visit in secret with claims that oil resides on his family's property. Under false pretenses and low rates, Daniel obtains the proper permissions to begin drilling, an act that will make him a fortune at the expense of alienating everyone around him. His biggest adversary steadily becomes Paul's religious twin brother Eli (Paul Dano in a dual role), an evangelist who is adamant that Daniel is deceiving the community. It leads to a "years-long" feud between the two men for the oil underneath the town's ground.
I don't want to go into too many spoilers, for anyone who hasn't seen this yet, but I will say a few things that must be said about this film. "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" can be described a number of different ways, but ultimately, the number one thing "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is ... is an "extremely rich character study". "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is one of the greatest "character study" films you will ever see in your life, with the center of this "study" being Daniel Day-Lewis' "Daniel Plainview". It's an extreme in-depth look at an interesting character driven by his own internal motivations. That is not the only thing to enjoy in this film either ... along with this outstanding "character study", you have multiple "subplots" piled on top of it that include a "father/son relationship" ... "an 'estranged brothers' relationship" ... and a "power struggle/battle" of "money vs. religion" that can determine who has control over people's souls. That is a lot to connect to, and "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" meshes it all together is a flawless fashion.
When we first meet Daniel Day-Lewis' "Daniel Plainview", he is a scruffy, dirty, quiet, unkempt California miner who nearly loses his life after falling down a mine shaft. After a lucky break when he discovers gold, his business prospers into a mining dig that produces oil. As we then silently watch Plainview's business building itself, the film's first words of dialogue finally come at about the 15 minute mark when years later, Plainview is going from town to town with his well-groomed son named H.W. giving a speech about him being an "oilman" who can help the town reap the profits of the oil found underneath their land. One such opportunity finds Daniel in the small religious town of Little Boston that's impossible to pass up, but Daniel's reticence at making good with the town's evangelical leader Eli Sunday proves to be the venture's biggest undoing. The rest of the film is driven by the backlash of the agnostic oilman's decision to snub Eli's request to bless the town's oil drilling venture, and how Daniel reacts to the things life and nature throw his way to threaten what he's built up ... from a derrick accident that causes his son to lose his hearing, or his estranged brother Henry showing up to help in the family business just as the deservedly suspicious Daniel is having his most significant success.
The center of this film is undoubtedly and unequivocally Daniel Day-Lewis, and his iconic (Oscar-Winning) performance as the villainous "Daniel Plainview". The "centered theme" around Daniel Plainview in this film is simple ... How "greed", "money", and "power" can "corrupt the human soul".
DDL captures the character of "Daniel Plainview" so good, it's scary ... disappearing completely into one of the most ruthless and unforgettable characters you will ever see in film. Everything about this character is wrong in so many ways. The more and more the film continues on, and you learn more and more about him ... you hate him more and more, but strangely enough ... you root for him! By the film's end, his very soul is eaten up by his unquenchable lust for money and power. Without any question, this is one of DDL's finest performances ... a powerful man that you could say was cut from the same cloth as his other iconic villainous role of "William 'The Butcher' Cutting" from 2002's "GANGS OF NEW YORK". Even more than Bill, this role gives DDL a chance to show off his infinite range of emotions, and while anger and pride tend to be the most prevalent ones, it's the way DDL creates this irresistible slow-build, often using merely a glance or a look that explodes into the most amazing display of fireworks. Watching DDL's transformation from an ambitious, well-to-do, mining, single father into a sociopathic monster ... a shell of his former self all but obliterated by his very hatred for everything but money ... is absolutely ugly and disturbing, and DDL doesn't so much as bat an eyelash in this picture-perfect portrayal.
Paul Dano plays a dual role as the twin boys of "Paul" and "Eli Sunday" ... the former being the twin brother who invites Plainview to Little Boston, the latter so manic and schizophrenic, especially while leading his flock, that some might assume they're one and the same. Despite the film's epic subject matter, it comes down to the friction-filled rivalry between the two men, leading to violent confrontations that get progressively more intense and insane ... leaving the biggest impact on the viewer than anything else. At least once or twice, Paul Dano does go a bit over-board, but makes a strong foil for DDL. The great Ciaran Hinds as Plainview's loyal "right-hand-man" named "Fletcher Hamilton", and Kevin J. O'Conner as Plainview's estranged brother "Henry" also have very strong performances given the screen-time they have.
Another thing that immediately impresses about "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is the amount of detail put into examining the early days of the American oil business ... the technical aspects of drilling and how the industry flourished with big corporations and big money, making it harder for entrepreneurs like Plainview to make a living. One of the most memorable scenes in "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is when his first oil derrick in Little Boston catches fire ... a layman might immediately presume the worst, but in fact, Plainview realizes the blaze signifies an "entire ocean of oil" beneath the town.
Cinematography is absolute top-notch with P.T. Anderson regular Robert Elswait, who won an Oscar for his work here ... the film is absolutely lush and atmospheric, perfectly capturing everything from the oil derrick catching fire ... to long wide shots of vast plains and valleys ... all the way down to the creepy final scene where you see Daniel Plainview sitting at a desk in his dimly lit, haunting, office.
The accompanying score by "Radiohead guitarist" Jonny Greenwood is something that leaves a far more lasting impression ... a jarring, even abrasive, collision of violin strings and percussion that might seem out of place for a period western ... but it also adds so much to the film's dark and manic tone, particularly in the friction between the men, and the decline into madness that comes with Daniel's lust for wealth and power. It's eerie, bombastic, and beneficially off-balance ... almost sounding like something out of a horror film. Truth be told, this is one of the greatest, most beautiful, musical scores you will ever here in your life.
The film leads to two final (fantastic!) confrontations at the end of the film with Plainview ... one being with his son H.W., the other being with Eli Sunday ... one being of "emotional" and the other being of "physical violence".
While the one of "physical violence" will leave a more lasting, memorable, impression (largely due to one of the most iconic quotes spoken by DDL in film history) ... the more powerful of the two, is the one of "emotional kind". Daniel Plainview comes face-to-face with his estranged, now "grown-up" son H.W. ... and without giving it away, it is a sequence of immense rawness, so upsetting that one almost wants to shut out the sound of the words being exchanged on-screen. The look of pure evilness on Daniel's face is so telling ... you can tell that this is nothing more than the look of a man that literally, has no soul left. It will leave you in shock and awe when you see "that look" on his face ... and when you see it, you will know why this man won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor.
"THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is just magnificent in so many ways. It's got engaging characters ... memorable quotes ... strong thematic heft ... beautiful lush atmosphere ... iconic performances ... a clear "two-part" resolution ... what more could you possibly want in a film? "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is a deep, rich, motion picture that you can stand next to any other "film classic" or "deep, character study" to measure it against, and it will certainly hold its own. Paul Thomas Anderson simply outdoes himself here ... presenting "lightning in a bottle" that will surely stand that test of time, as an all-time classic with one of the most iconic, memorable, unforgettable performances you will ever see from an actor. Those who enjoy quality filmmaking or Daniel Day-Lewis will more than just appreciate this film ... they will absolutely love this. Simply put, "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is nothing short, of an epic masterpiece!