AJ Black’s review published on Letterboxd:
There Will Be Blood feels less like a title, more of a proclamation. The first frame it briefly hits you in the face then disappears, a statement by Paul Thomas Anderson - that's what you're going to get. Much like the film that follows it, you feel a sense of power from that image, a sense of strength. Anderson's work here deserves to be regarded as his first true masterpiece in a career already glittering with jewels, a breathtakingly original adaptation (of Upton Sinclair's 'Oil!') that you would be hard to describe or categorise to anyone, yet can be talked of as uncompromising, terrifying and hilarious all at once, brought together by a typically masterful performance by Daniel Day Lewis - and if you ever doubted he's the Olivier of his generation, just watch him here. Nobody comes close.
Day-Lewis is mesmerising as Daniel Plainview, an early oil prospector with an egomania that knows no bounds, along with an immorality that seeps from him at every pore. Within the first few minutes he takes the infant of a deceased fellow prospector and raises him as his own, largely as a sympathy tool - that's the kind of man he is. To Paul Dano's highly religious and supremely naive Eli Sunday, he becomes a manifestation of the Devil and it's a fascinating comparison - Anderson intentionally frames Plainview as representative of sin, yet Day-Lewis is a far better actor than to play him with one mere shade - he infuses Plainview with a jet black pantomime beyond his actions, a vein of melodrama that actually lies within Anderson's entire movie. That's not a slight either, it only serves to add to the atmosphere of the piece - you'll find yourself laughing at moments that shouldn't be funny, yet are played so overblown as to be comical. It's a quite brilliant skill of script, direction and acting so difficult to make work. Anderson's movie is sumptuous in every way - from stunning cinematography from Robert Elswit that brings alive the starch Californian landscape, all the way to Anderson's narrative that despite the running time moves well with incident and magnetic performances, building all the way to a devastatingly memorable final moment 'DRAIIIIIIINAGE' and 'I drink YOUR milkshake' are rapidly becoming iconic movie phrases and rightly so. Anderson layers his movie with many themes and ideas beyond the primary story - greed, avarice, the meaning of fatherhood and of course religion, encapsulated in Dano's Eli (too played quite brilliantly). Nothing is simple yet Anderson keeps everything elegant and subtle, holding back to just allow Day-Lewis to magnetise you for the running time, as he surely will - backed up too by Jonny Greenwood's haunting, sinister yet quite beautiful score.
Masterpiece is not a word to use lightly, but There Will Be Blood is worthy of the term. Paul Thomas Anderson has delivered a wonderfully original, darkly comic period melodrama utterly soaked in atmosphere and style that makes you truly feel the world he's trying to bring to life, and a potential career-best performance by Daniel Day-Lewis - and given he's perhaps the greatest living actor of our time, that's saying something. Destined to enter many lists of the greatest American movies, Anderson's piece of art will be talked of in hallowed terms 50-100 years time as we do Citizen Kane now and, almost without doubt, is one of, if not the best movie of our century so far.