There Will Be Blood ★★★★★

"If I say I’m an oil man, you will agree,” purrs Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in the first stretch of dialogue in There Will Be Blood. This is a true statement in a few ways. One, he actually is an ‘oil man’, an extractor and seller of oil. But, also, he is a man with a heart as black as his product, the ultimate anti-hero. Our leading man is also our villain in this disturbing portrait of the downfall of a man who wasn’t a particularly upstanding citizen in the first place.

This melodrama begins with Daniel Day-Lewis mining for precious ores in the late 19th century (the period detail is marvellously realised), when he sees that the money is no longer there. The real wealth lies with oil. And before you can say “Gusher!”, he has made himself a greedy tycoon, who wants land from the fire-and-brimstone faith family of the Sundays. A brutal war of words, actions and violence breaks out between the faith of Eli Sunday (a phenomenal Paul Dano) and the power-lust of Daniel…with bloody (and oily) results…

Daniel Day-Lewis gives the performance of a life-time, letting his inner animal out and then shutting it behind the metal bars of his eyes. The result is a man on the edge of madness, paranoid and raging. His restraint, for the most part, is almost matched by Paul Dano as his kindly arch-nemesis, who, surprisingly, over-acts more than Day-Lewis does. The two spark off each other, making sure not to set alight the oil that surrounds them with their volatile chemistry.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has concocted his masterpiece with cracking performances, inspired dialogue and perfect attention to detail (tension is racked up by the smallest of actions). You could say he’s found his oil…

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