There Will Be Blood

Film, Drama
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There Will Be Blood

We begin down a hole. It’s 1898 in the Southern Californian desert and Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a lithe, daddy-long-legs of a man, a lone-gun silver prospector whose tools, as he scratches around in the dark, are a pickaxe, a rope, some dynamite and sheer will. The scene, like many in the film, is gruelling, elemental, horrific even.

He falls, breaks his leg and gains a limp that will stay with him for the rest of this bold, epic film. We hop forward to 1902, and Plainview is digging again, only now he’s on the hunt for something else: oil. He strikes black and brandishes his filthy hands to his accomplices. The dirt under his nails is a badge of honour, and one never to be removed; he wears it years later, even when he’s moping around a mansion, his mind driven loopy by success and paranoia.

Another hop and it’s 1911, and we reach the meat of the movie. A smarter Plainview, a fedora on his brow, is in the shadows of a meeting of folk in Little Boston, California on whose land he wants to dig. ‘I’m an oil man…’ he implores, the first noise we hear from his mouth, not a word wasted, barely a breath not invested in his success. His voice is simple but mellifluous, its stresses and dips unusual but alluring. It’s the first hint in this long, odd and stunning film that this character – this wicked creation, this symbol of a nation, this quiet monster – will lodge in your psyche long after the movie cuts dead on an ending that’s strange and sudden, irritating and pleasing.

On one level, Plainview is a pure businessman – ruthless, self-centred, adaptable. On another, he’s a mystery – sexless, rootless, unfathomable, silent. The questions roll off the screen. Does he care for his adopted son, HW (Dillon Freasier) or does he see him only as a useful face to have around during negotiations? Are we meant to root for Plainview’s individualist tendencies against the expansion of the Standard and Union oil companies? No – as soon as the film hints this is going to be the tale of an underdog, Plainview does something awful. Faceless, corporate behaviour begins to look benign. On yet another level, Plainview reflects, then and now, the power of the church; it’s a local pastor, Eli Sunday (a wily Paul Dano) who leads him to the loot. It’s the same pastor whose pockets he must line and religion he must embrace.

This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s foundation myth – taken from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel ‘Oil!’, which in turn was inspired by men like Edward Doheny, the oil man who went from rags to riches and died in 1935 in the same mansion where Anderson shot his final scenes. Anderson’s story is precisely dated, stretching from 1898 to 1927, and mostly lingers around 1911 as Plainview builds a gushing derrick.

But the beginning of his film feels like the beginning of the world for all its sense that nothing came before. Anderson is arguing that this chasm in the earth, and similar chasms, were the birthplace of America. Little Boston becomes a theatre for his Genesis, or for Exodus, from which the film takes its name. It’s stressed by the primal buzz of Jonny Greenwood’s wonderful score that’s set to the film’s first image of a barren hillside.

Day-Lewis’s performance is as good as the awards suggest: it’s big, it’s wild, yet it’s also restrained by the sparing talk of his character and framed by a film whose ambitions are bigger than his acting. That Anderson, the film’s writer-director, whose ‘Boogie Nights’ was a riot but ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ both noble failures, has come to make this intelligent and enthralling masterpiece is both a little surprising and intensely satisfying.

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Release details

Release date: Friday February 8 2008
Duration: 0 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis
Dillon Freasier
Ciarán Hinds
Kevin J O'Connor
Paul Dano

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:45
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:11
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:4
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moderatorStaff Writer

Daniel Day Lewis at his finest. I'd put this in the 'epic' category so to be watched when you've got the time to switch off and immerse yourself in the film. If you can do that, then you'll be rewarded, maybe not with oil, but with the knowledge you've watched one of the best films of the century so far.


I have only just got around to seeing this movie, and based on some of the comments above, I can only assume they weren't paying attention, or aren't intelligent enough to watch a film like this. Why give it 3 stars if you think it was the most boring film you've ever seen..... There Will Be Blood gets you slowly but surely, I must admit 15 minutes in I was wondering where it was all going - but it creeps up on you and by the end has you hook, line and sinker. DDL is a brilliant actor, and he does a great job of a complex character (as always). I disagree that the last scene is drawn out.. I think it was a great example of a man believing his own worth, his own hype, his own importance, finally believing that he was akin to God. Do not watch this movie if you have something else on your mind, you will miss the point, but if you let yourself be absorbed into Plainview's world for a couple of hours, you won't be disappointed


How he goes from rugged individualist to rotting, soulless millionaire. Why can't Che run a country? The type A personality. Who is more driven than the miserable? Tiger Woods, Richard Nixon. "Unhappy the Land that has no hero? No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero." Bert Brecht in Galileo. And if wretched men like Plainview did not exist? More living native Americans and fewer women burnt at Salem. The man is not a "rugged individualist" he's just in an agony that fuels his life. Great movie. The real John Wayne.


Fantastic film, quite mesmerising, those who can't manage 2 1/2 hours of brilliant acting and evocation of a legendary time should stay home and watch the tv. Movies set in the gold rush are 10 a penny, how often do you see one about oil, the root of all evil?


An outstanding, thoughtful film which will qualify as 'shit' for those with one brain cell


I saw this film today and thought that the visual and audio effects were wonderful, lead role acting was fab. Thought provoking undertones, prompts "be careful what you wish for"


I saw this with my wife and another couple; the girls absolutely hated it and we lads loved it. One of the strongest, most engrossing, powerrful movies I have seen in years. Truly moving performance from DDL. There's so much in the story on so many levels - those who complain it's slow, miss the point, you feel like the Plainview character might... lonely betrayed driven greedy hugely successful yet ultimately, it all was futile as he's so so empty and unhappy despite all the success. Reminiscent of Scarface, another great film....


I have to say that I can appreciate the film and thought DDL's performance was immense but I have to agree with some; that the film was incredibly slow and it does have a feel about it that it was made for the sole purpose of being epic and winning awards. I can't say that I enjoyed the film particularly as it felt like everything was going slowly; perhaps it was meant to be feel tedious and resemble Plainview's initial struggle; I don't know but it didn't live up to my expectations despite the great acting performances.


I cant comment on this filmas it was so boreing I fell asleep before the end, SO SLOW IT ALLMOST STOPPED


What a dissapointment! I have just come back from the cinema thinking that I wasted 3 hours of my life. The film did not have an interesting story line and it was totally boring! DDL's performance is OK though..


This film had been hyped from the get go, their was some fantastic performances mainly from Daniel Day Lewis but also the guy who played Eli was great! The fil was very slow moving and ended really weird, but saying that I'm glad I saw it.


magnificent! Others on this website that have scored this film as a zero or 1 star-what were you watching! As a film student who grew up watching the masters at work Paul Anderson Thompson is as good as they get. This film is ART- the Soundtrack, Cinematography, Acting is Top NOTCH! DDL is a master at work-watch the bext actor in the world work his magic! I have now seen this film 3 times & will go again. CLOVERFIELD, RAMBO etc... plenty of dross out their for those that want to put their brain in neutral! WATCH THIS!


magnificent! Others on this website that have scored this film as a zero or 1 star-what were you watching! As a film student who grew up watching the masters at work Paul Anderson Thompson is as good as they get. This film is ART- the Soundtrack, Cinematography, Acting is Top NOTCH! DDL is a master at work-watch the bext actor in the world work his magic! I have now seen this film 3 times & will go again. CLOVERFIELD, RAMBO etc... plenty of dross out their for those that want to put their brain in neutral! WATCH THIS!


Watching this film is like giving birth, huge pain during delivery, but you feel so much better when it ends!(of so I am told as a male). Incredibly intensive film which keeps you absorbed in the cinema, yet you do not know why. It is brutal, violent and grim. If you feel depressed, don't go! Wonderful acting from the whole cast, thought the star may 'over act' in parts. Great for intellectual discussion with friends afterwards to interpret the meaning and charecters.


I was utterly transfixed for all two and a half hours of this film. What a brilliant piece of work. It asks all kinds of questions about the desire and drive for wealth and power and many parallels can be drawn in our world today and Plainview's surroundings. Daniel Day Lewis rightly won the Oscar for Best Actor. Thank you Paul Thomas Anderson. As for those that slated this film, I really can't stand it when plebs write in telling us all how much of a waste of their time and money this film was. Might I suggest you read Time Out's review before every film? Those films with 1 star are suitable for you. Live by that rule and you'll never be disappointed again.


I was utterly transfixed for all two and a half hours of this film. What a brilliant piece of work. It asks all kinds of questions about the desire and drive for wealth and power and many parallels can be drawn in our world today and Plainview's surroundings. Daniel Day Lewis rightly won the Oscar for Best Actor. Thank you Paul Thomas Anderson. As for those that slated this film, I really can't stand it when plebs write in telling us all how much of a waste of their time and money this film was. Might I suggest you read Time Out's review before every film? Those films with 1 star are suitable for you. Live by that rule and you'll never be disappointed again.


After reading the critic reviews I was really lookig forward to seeing it. I have just returned from watching it and would agree that DDL is superb but apart from that there is nothing to this movie. I have read the reviews about it being epic and the scenery and close-ups etc and to an extent I agree with the comments but there was absolutely no compelling story-line. For me it was boring verging on painful.


Oh dear. I agree that DDL's acting is something else (actually he sounded like someone else at times - stand up Sean Connery) but did it really have to take so long to make the point? Some heavy editing and an engrosing film of say90 minutes could have been made out of this


I read that this film is over-hyped, that it says nothing about the oil industry or why Plianview has become the man he is. Perhaps Thomas Anderson should have spelt it out for all to see in plain view. Plainview is an anti-socialist because he has had no socialism. He trusts the earth & what's beneath it. A brave & magnificent achievement in minimalism. Makes 'Giant' look redundant. Daniel Day Lewis is without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest British actor since Sir Alec Guinness. The film is a modern day opera. Occasionally, mainstream film can bee seen as art & this is one of those (all too rare) moments. To compare it to Anthony Mann or Bud Boeticcher is complimenatry, although I think the writer did not mean to. The score is also magnificent.


I read that this film is over-hyped, that it says nothing about the oil industry or why Plianview has become the man he is. Perhaps Thomas Anderson should have spelt it out for all to see in plain view. Plainview is an anti-socialist because he has had no socialism. He trusts the earth & what's beneath it. A brave & magnificent achievement in minimalism. Makes 'Giant' look redundant. Daniel Day Lewis is without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest British actor since Sir Alec Guinness. The film is a modern day opera. Occasionally, mainstream film can bee seen as art & this is one of those (all too rare) moments. To compare it to Anthony Mann or Bud Boeticcher is complimenatry, although I think the writer did not mean to. The score is also magnificent.


A complete movie.. really enjoyed every minute of it. especially the back round music resembling creaking of an ungreased machine


A complete movie.. really enjoyed every minute of it. especially the back round music resembling creaking of an ungreased machine


The most dismal film I have seen in ages - and disappointing cinsidering the reviews. I waited for all the treads to be pulled together at the end and for there to be some purpose in the multiple storylines but left feeling cheated. Utterly miserable - what a waste of 2 1/2 hours


This is when you should ignore the dvd on a small home screen and see it on a cinema scale. What a film! I could sit through it again, there is so much too it and a great story. Also a fillm to put a big smile on Richard Dawkin's face.


This is when you should ignore the dvd on a small home screen and see it on a cinema scale. What a film! I could sit through it again, there is so much too it and a great story. Also a fillm to put a big smile on Richard Dawkin's face.


An amazing film that stays with you for days afterwards, and Daniel Day-Lewis is mesmorising. Believe the hype.


An amazing film that stays with you for days afterwards, and Daniel Day-Lewis is mesmorising. Believe the hype.


a compelling and wonderful film, not just Day Lewis but supporting actors are great too. Its appropriate that his character is basically amoral and hateful but the layers of emotion and characterisation contained in the plot are what makes the film so unusual and fulfilling. I wouldn't be surprised if right wing religion based America absolutely hated the film for what is does to evangelism. Thought provoking and compelling. Many oscars to follow.


a compelling and wonderful film, not just Day Lewis but supporting actors are great too. Its appropriate that his character is basically amoral and hateful but the layers of emotion and characterisation contained in the plot are what makes the film so unusual and fulfilling. I wouldn't be surprised if right wing religion based America absolutely hated the film for what is does to evangelism. Thought provoking and compelling. Many oscars to follow.


Don't beleive the hype. OK movie but I just cannot see what the hype is all about.


Great acting, interesting film of a flawed man, but not something that will stay with me for a long time.


I must have seen a completely different film from all these miopic clowns that said how wonderful it was. It's a depressing story of a nutcase. Well acted, I give you that but once the film has finished you will come out of the cinema with a feeling of depressed annoyance that you wasted nearly 3 hours of your life.


A powerhouse performance by Day-Lewis beautifully shot a great movie alround.


A powerhouse performance by Day-Lewis beautifully shot a great movie alround.


"Are we meant to root for Plainview’s individualist tendencies against the expansion of the Standard and Union oil companies? No – as soon as the film hints this is going to be the tale of an underdog, Plainview does something awful. Faceless, corporate behaviour begins to look benign." rockefeller's standard oil was hardly 'faceless'. this film was about as clueless about the economics of oil as it was about, to borrow a phrase, religion and the rise of capitalism. where is the intelligence in this film? what insights does paul thomas anderson provide?


Curiously, the film's final scenes were shot in the Doheny Mansion. Along with Days of Heaven and Citizen Kane, I think the finale of Anderson's epic owes much to "The Shining." And with all the talk of Day Lewis and what he owes to John Ford for his character, he also sounds a lot like Sean Connery to me. Great flick .. great country.


Curiously, the film's final scenes were shot in the Doheny Mansion. Along with Days of Heaven and Citizen Kane, I think the finale of Anderson's epic owes much to "The Shining." And with all the talk of Day Lewis and what he owes to John Ford for his character, he also sounds a lot like Sean Connery to me. Great flick .. great country.


DD's performance was riveting, but is that news? I'm dumbstruck by the introduction and finale -- literally, I feel dumb. I mean I don't get it ... I walk away confused. But intrigued. The score was hypnotic, cinematography clean and editing competent. But the tempo lurched around disturbingly and I left the theatre slightly seasick. Or at least happy to be on dry ground again.


Isa 63:3: I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people (there was) none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. Masterful recreation of a lone quasi-tragic figure, a man who has in heroic proportion what we all share in smaller proportion, and is destroyed by it. His monomaniacal wresting of oil from the ground, coercing nature to human will reminds of Ahab. When at the end he sits alone in his mansion, he reminds of Citizen Kane, both tragic American figures. Lest you judge him, set yourself above him: Who else would hurl himself against rock and dirt so tenaciously, so furiously? This country wasn’t built by safe sideline intellectuals, moralizers, or nice guys. This country certainly wasn’t built by “New Yorker� or “NY Times� movie reviewers. Big Hole in the Middle: The struggle is strictly evil vs. evil, ergo misanthropic. Daniel Plainview misses an alter ego, a foil. The church is a con and god superstition. The struggle is completely within, and Daniel Plainview has clearly ceded to evil from the start. The only touch of good in him is his affection for the boy, which he renounces and defiles in the end. He admits his depravity and hate, without the least regret or misgiving. The only thing that eats at him is the boy, his guilt at abandoning him. Only his drunken binges belie his self-possession. The spectrum covered by the movie is skewed, veers to pathology as opposed to tragedy. Odd, movie derives from Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!� a socialist novel based on the Teapot Dome scandal, in which Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall in 1922 secretly leased government lands to private oil operators, who in turn gave him large “loans.� Upton Sinclair was clearly anticapitalistic, socialistic. Thankfully, the movie takes no such predefined, clear-cut sides. Thankfully, also, the movie is utterly compelling to watch, of uninterrupted intensity and imagination. Brute physical struggle occupies the first 15-20 minutes, without a single word of spoken dialogue. Paul Anderson knows how to tell a story in image and sound. “There Will Be Blood� is very much like Anderson’s earlier “Punch Drunk Love,� but the opposite: the distillation of hate here, love in the other, hate/love driving their respective characters like leaves in the wind. Both movies operate on minimalistic stages, with little else on them but the chief characters, swollen with their single preoccupations. Last scene, as many have pointed out, is drawn out, unconvincing, theatrical, a stretch. Great last line, tho, “I’m finished.�


Isa 63:3: I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people (there was) none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. Masterful recreation of a lone quasi-tragic figure, a man who has in heroic proportion what we all share in smaller proportion, and is destroyed by it. His monomaniacal wresting of oil from the ground, coercing nature to human will reminds of Ahab. When at the end he sits alone in his mansion, he reminds of Citizen Kane, both tragic American figures. Lest you judge him, set yourself above him: Who else would hurl himself against rock and dirt so tenaciously, so furiously? This country wasn’t built by safe sideline intellectuals, moralizers, or nice guys. This country certainly wasn’t built by “New Yorker� or “NY Times� movie reviewers. Big Hole in the Middle: The struggle is strictly evil vs. evil, ergo misanthropic. Daniel Plainview misses an alter ego, a foil. The church is a con and god superstition. The struggle is completely within, and Daniel Plainview has clearly ceded to evil from the start. The only touch of good in him is his affection for the boy, which he renounces and defiles in the end. He admits his depravity and hate, without the least regret or misgiving. The only thing that eats at him is the boy, his guilt at abandoning him. Only his drunken binges belie his self-possession. The spectrum covered by the movie is skewed, veers to pathology as opposed to tragedy. Odd, movie derives from Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!� a socialist novel based on the Teapot Dome scandal, in which Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall in 1922 secretly leased government lands to private oil operators, who in turn gave him large “loans.� Upton Sinclair was clearly anticapitalistic, socialistic. Thankfully, the movie takes no such predefined, clear-cut sides. Thankfully, also, the movie is utterly compelling to watch, of uninterrupted intensity and imagination. Brute physical struggle occupies the first 15-20 minutes, without a single word of spoken dialogue. Paul Anderson knows how to tell a story in image and sound. “There Will Be Blood� is very much like Anderson’s earlier “Punch Drunk Love,� but the opposite: the distillation of hate here, love in the other, hate/love driving their respective characters like leaves in the wind. Both movies operate on minimalistic stages, with little else on them but the chief characters, swollen with their single preoccupations. Last scene, as many have pointed out, is drawn out, unconvincing, theatrical, a stretch. Great last line, tho, “I’m finished.�

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