When Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) proclaims, “Ladies and gentleman, if I say I’m an oil man you will agree,” you quite simply can’t do anything other than agree. That’s the kind of man Plainview is – the kind you just don’t disagree with, mainly out of fear. Plainview speaks calmly, deliberately, and with an air of confidence that seems almost too rehearsed, yet people still trust him, confide in him and look up to him. After all, Daniel Plainview is a prospector – of gold, silver, oil, or any other precious material – and his only goal in life is to make as much money as possible and hoard it as greedily as he can. This isn’t the type of man that makes a good father (he has a small son named H.W.), a trustworthy associate, or a dependable businessman, and yet, these are the primary concerns of Plainview’s life. It should come as no surprise, then, that P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a ticking time bomb of destruction, madness, and the darkest shade of human nature you’re ever likely to see.
indicative of what the rest of his life will become. In an effort to extract the gold he finds, Plainview breaks his leg and endures a world of pain for the wealth and personal gain he achieves from the ordeal. He later loses a co-worker in a freak accident, and there’s no emotion or sorrow from Daniel, because what truly matters is the payoff, and if that’s intact, dead workers can always be replaced. There's no emotion, no regard for other people, no remorse, no kindness, and no generosity -- there's only money and oil, and to Daniel, they're one and the same.
Once Daniel turns his attention from gold and silver to oil, he’s almost immediately confronted by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), a young man who’s got some extremely valuable information that, of course, can be had for the right price. Naturally, Daniel swindles Paul and the information turns out to be much more than he could’ve anticipated: a whole ocean of oil that only he can get to. As he methodically takes over the Sunday ranch and sets up his oiling machinery whilst imposing his will on all who cross his path, only one man rises to meet the challenge of Daniel Plainview – Eli Sunday, twin brother of Paul and preacher of the Church of the Third Revelation. What follows is a gigantic clash of two men, both with extremely flawed ideologies but both unwilling, at least until the direst of circumstances, to yield to the other. The film spans a number of decades and as time passes, bitterness only festers and the notions of greed, power, lust and hypocrisy only grow stronger, all the while leading us to an unforgettable conclusion.
There’s no doubt that Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is the biggest strength of There Will Be Blood, but that’s not a knock on the rest of the film – it’s merely the highest compliment for one of the best performances to ever grace the screen, given by perhaps the greatest actor of all time. You have to see the film to really believe how amazing Day-Lewis really is, but what’s so unbelievable about him, and this is true of all his films, is that despite his greatness and commanding screen presence, he leaves plenty of room for everybody else. Whether it’s how Paul Dano, a relatively unheralded young actor, is able to shine nearly as brightly as the legendary actor, or that Anderson’s brilliance in writing and direction is vividly evident, Day-Lewis’s greatness is as much about how he makes those around him better as it is about his own talents.
There Will Be Blood is certainly not an easy film to watch, nor is it a particularly enjoyable experience. But it’s an immensely powerful movie that’s also darkly humorous, poignant, emotional, violent and ultimately, quite tragic. It’s a perversely compelling story about a man who’s torn to shreds by a world not fit enough for his madness, hatred, and stark self loathing. P.T. Anderson has created the type of epic that dares you to avert your eyes even though it’s completely conscious of the fact that it has you utterly transfixed. Daniel Plainview’s tale is a difficult one to swallow, but if you spend the time and energy to fully digest it, it’s somehow a sadistically satisfying experience and as such, There Will Be Blood is easily one of my favorite films of 2007.