#72. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson (based on Oil! By Upton Sinclair)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier
The debate between the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood has been raging for nearly a decade at this point. Both incredible films released in 2007 and vying for that year’s Best Picture award, both camps have made some great points over the years about why their film is the superior one. In my opinion, There Will Be Blood just barely edges out its competition, thanks in part to Paul Thomas Anderson’s meticulous eye for detail, the central performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, and the themes of greed and the deconstruction of American capitalism. PTA’s film is about Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an aspiring oil baron in early 20th century America, and Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a young preacher looking to secure financing for his church. We see Plainview’s rise to power, his strained relationship with his son HW (Dillon Freasier), their attempted acquisition of Eli Sunday’s land, and his eventual descent into apparent madness. There Will Be Blood is another film on my list that comes in at well over two hours in length, and yet never meanders or overstays its welcome. The pacing of PTA’s script (based on Oil! By Upton Sinclair) is perfect in every way, building Daniel Plainview as a man to be reckoned with, and establishing the world in which he exists in – where personal greed, religion, and the pursuit of the American dream all seem to clash. The Academy Award winning cinematography from longtime PTA associate Robert Elswit is gorgeous, featuring sweeping landscapes, and profound visuals that push the film’s themes without having to say a single word. The towering achievement of There Will Be Blood is the Oscar-winning performance by veteran actor Daniel Day-Lewis, whose turn as Plainview is chilling. No actor alive can match the intensity of Day-Lewis’ method acting technique – he embodies the spirit of Daniel Plainview in every frame of this picture. Another performance that must be mentioned is that of Paul Dano, who plays something of an adversary to Plainview in Eli Sunday. Dano’s occasional outbursts can be truly frightening, and his conniving nature is truly frustrating. It’s a shame that Dano didn’t get the admiration he truly deserved for the role, as it probably caused him to lose a nomination for Best Supporting Actor (though the deck was very much stacked against him). There Will Be Blood is as perfect a film as you’ll find, telling an intricate, epic tale of greed in the booming days of the early oil industry. It should really be considered required viewing at this point, as it’s a perfect example of how to create a compelling modern drama.