A chronicle on the life and times of one Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who transforms himself from a down and out silver miner raising a son on his own into a self-made oil tycoon. When Plainview gets a mysterious tip off that there's a little town out West where an ocean of oil is oozing out of the ground, he heads with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), to take their chances in dust worn Little Boston. In this hardscarbble town, where the main excitement centres around the holy roller church of charismatic preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), Plainview and H.W. make their lucky strike. But even as the well raises all of their fortunes, nothing will remain the same as conflicts escalate and every human value – love, hope, community, belief, ambition and even the bond between father and son – is imperiled by corruption, deception and the flow of oil.
Oil and religion? Profiteers and prophets? It’s no wonder that There Will Be Blood feels relevant to modern America, while also having the terrible resonance of a Biblical parable. Even better, this modernised Cain and Abel story has been made by writer-director PT Anderson with all the cinematic grandeur of Citizen Kane, the benchmark movie about American megalomania.
Daniel Plainview is a hard-scrabble silver prospector working a small claim. When he strikes oil by accident, he’s in the right place at the right time – it’s the start of the 20th century, the age of the automobile, and he’s in the American West. And Daniel will use anything – even his adoptive son – to build his oil empire.
Daniel’s opposite number is an ambitious young preacher named Eli Sunday who wants to control Daniel with his blessings.
Daniel Day-Lewis delivers an Oscar-worthy performance that’s genius in its nuance. He has genuine moments of reason and humanity, but we always feel that the mad darkness in him is as deep and limitless as the oil beneath his feet. While Day Lewis dominates as Plainview, he has an excellent sparring partner in Paul Dano as the not-so-good Reverend.
As good as Magnolia and Boogie Nights were, PT Anderson has outdone himself with this movie. Testament to his skill, the first 20 minutes are done without dialogue, just a rumbling soundtrack from Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood – it’s a superb and riveting sequence.
As a title, There Will Be Blood elicits dread and tension and the film delivers on this promise before serving up a knockout finale.
It seems too soon to use the phrase again after No Country For Old Men, but this is another American masterpiece that rates five stars and will have people talking for years to come.