'There Will Be Blood' Review
This article contains spoilers for "There Will Be Blood."
As my Instagram followers all know and hate, I am in a long running Paul Dano phase and have been ever since I saw "The Batman" over spring break. While this has been a great inconvenience to other people, I feel it is benefitting me on the whole. I have since been exposed to movies such as "Okja," "Little Miss Sunshine," and the subject of today’s review, "There Will Be Blood." Loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil!" and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood" follows oilman Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) on his quest for wealth and his gradual descent into crippling greed. As the movie plays out, we see Plainview through his first taste of riches, the start of his oil company, the adoption/theft of his "son" HW, and his quest to drill up all of the oil in Little Boston.
Let me just start by saying that this movie is harrowing. It is so relentless, there really is not a relaxed moment. Plainview is constantly lying and going back on his promises, and I pretty much spent the entire movie waiting for things to blow up in his face. Day-Lewis perfectly portrays him with this very calm, kind surface, but you can tell there’s something sinister running underneath. The one redeeming quality Plainview seems to have is that he really loves and cares for HW (until he doesn’t, but we’ll get to that later). Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday is very unsettling. He has this soft spoken way about him, and is oppressively religious. Something about him is so ominous. He is a character that is just… unsettling. There are also an alarming amount of oil rigs. Even today, they are astoundingly dangerous to work on, and we see four drilling-related accidents in this movie. Let me tell you, maybe this is the Good Christian Woman coming out of me, but I really wish Plainview had let him bless that well. The creepy little Jesus boy probably would’ve been kinder to you if you had just let him bless your well.
My favorite thing to be distressed about during this movie was HW’s wellbeing. I don’t know what it was about this kid, but I swore immediately that if he died during this movie I was gonna have to find a way to kill a fictional character. Luckily, he survived, but he was often left unsupervised around oil wells. As you can imagine, this did not end well. When the drilling finally breaks through, a great blast of oil comes bursting out of the ground in a massive geyser, throwing HW off the section of rigging he was standing on and causing him to hit his head, hard. While Plainview is initially very concerned about HW, as soon as he gets his son inside, Plainview immediately seems way more excited about the amount of oil he’s just found than being concerned about HW’s obvious distress and poor condition. While his son lays inside, frightened and confused by sudden hearing loss, Daniel grins widely at his fountain of money. This is our first peak into Plainview’s descent.
Daniel Day-Lewis is such a stand-out performer here. His unraveling is palpable; you can feel his greed growing from one scene to the next. He does increasingly desperate things to prove himself as an oilman, and it eats him up from the inside out. By the final scene, 25 years have passed and Plainview is surrounded by opulence, but he is a lonely alcoholic and wildly unhinged. This corruption of his mental state culminates in Plainview harshly cutting off HW and mercilessly revealing that he isn’t actually his son. In a final blowout with Eli Sunday, Plainview mocks him by forcing him to pronounce himself a false prophet and say that God is a superstition, before crushing his final hopes and killing him with a bowling pin. It is truly astounding how believable Day-Lewis makes this — it genuinely wouldn’t have been the same film with anyone less skilled.
One of the things that immediately drew me into this movie was the score. From start to finish, it's filled with some of the most tense orchestra music I’ve ever been subjected to while watching a movie. Even in moments where nothing particularly exciting was happening, they were backed by this harsh, dissonant, percussive score that never let you forget about the dangerous oil drilling happening around the clock. As the credits rolled, I noticed the score composer wasn’t anyone I had heard of before, so I Googled his name. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this intense score was written by none other than the guitarist for Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood.
As previously discussed, I’m terrible at thinking critically about movies and can only rate them on a scale of “I had a bad time watching this” to “I had a good time watching this.” Given that I am a huge fan of watching a man’s slow descent into madness, and there are plenty of scenes featuring Paul Dano just being a freaky little weirdo (as well as excellent direction, sound design, score, and cinematography), "There Will Be Blood" falls firmly into the “I had a GREAT time watching this” category, and I would highly recommend this movie.