Brandon’s review published on Letterboxd:
There will be Greed. There will be vengeance. There will be blood.
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a hard working prospector who does what he needs to to achieve his goals, including taking advantage of those around him. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), self-proclaimed faith preacher, sells Daniel his land, which is filled with oil, in exchange for money for his Church. Daniel spends his time pumping oil off the land and going to adjacent lands in order to purchase them and build a pipe to drain the oil. The lives of these two men often clash as a result of the greediness of them both. And there will be blood.
Paul Thomas Anderson does a fantastic job directing this film and writing the screenplay for it. Based off of a novel, the story is at times boring, but then again, it isn't. This is due to the work of Anderson, who makes a somewhat boring topic interesting with his screenplay writing, and the work of the cinematographer. He shoots from all different angles, rotating between still shots and motion shots, that create an interesting view on the oil mining business in the early 20th century. The use of focus was also key in adding a dramatic effect to some of the scenes. A lot of times we see two characters talking, but the focus is on neither one of them. It makes it feel like we are there watching the argument taking place. I thought that aspect of the cinematography was great.
The acting is the strong point of the film, as you would probably expect. Daniel Day-Lewis is unbelievably good in this. He definitely deserved the best actor award that he won for this film. Every line is delivered with emotion, and he makes this character feel like these events actually took place. Paul Dano in a supporting role is also fantastic. He is truly one of the finest young actors and needs more recognition. He is always completely engulfed in his character and takes everything very seriously. You never at one point feel like he is acting, but you feel that he is that character.
As I mentioned earlier, the story is a tough topic to become interested in. A 158 minute film on oil mining is truly difficult to be interested in, but Anderson along with his cast keeps you interested. Whether it be the classical music, which is very good by the way, the acting, or the camera work, you stay intrigued. The script is well-written and the story of religion, hatred, and greed takes a turn for the worst at the end.
Do I think it should have won picture of the year over No Country for Old Men? No. But it certainly deserved the nomination that it received, and is a very well-made film. No it isn't my favorite, because it isn't something I can really get into, but it was certainly well-executed and accomplished quite a bit.