This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
There Will Be Blood is said to be Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece by many but I think of it as just a good film done by a great director. The film may grow on me in time, as it did in my second viewing, but my review will be based after my second viewing. This is like Apocalypse Now where as I watched it over and over it started to become better and better.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a director as well as a writer. His writing here is good but not great. The plot of this film is a miner, Daniel Plainview, who struck oil and became a rich man out of it, he then made it his business to drill and harvest the oil around America. His jackpot was this area in Little Boston, which had an "ocean full" of oil, and wanted to create a pipeline to the sea. There is also conflict and competition between Daniel and the preacher Eli Sunday. The film is like a rise and fall story of Daniel Plainview, at first we like him as he is just a poor man with nothing trying to scrape silver to gain some money and then as his ambition and empire grew, he became a horrible man obsessed with greed and power. The story is interesting and at times I think Daniel Plainview is similar to Barry Lyndon. For the most part it was interesting and entertaining but there are small moments where I felt the film just misfired, and that is the scenes with his brother. It is an important plot point as it shows a side Plainview we have never seen but I felt it wasn't executed well. The competition between Eli and Daniel was the best part of the film, to see whether who's ambition would win over the other. Both compete for the community's support either through Eli's faith and sermons or through Daniel's oil that could allow their city to flourish and gain in wealth. The climax is a moment that is driven through with just dialog but it was done really well that waiting 2 hours for it is worth it.
This is my first Paul Thomas Anderson film and I did have the bar set up high for this film. It didn't meet my expectations but it was good enough for me to want to venture into his other films, in particular The Master. I like the fact Anderson took the time to explore many areas in Plainview's life like his relationship with his son, his past, his struggles at the start. Anderson wanted this film to be slow and patient in order to flesh out the character enough and give us an impression that this man's personality and intentions have changed due to his greed and the crave of expansion.
Robert Elswit, the film's director of photography, has brought his style from Michael Clayton in this film. It takes it's time with shots allowing for performances to stand out more. The film also doesn't try to be flashy or pretty but rather just appropriate in the time period they are trying to create. I think the best moments that was captured on this film was the burning derrick scene. It was done beautifully and gives us an indicator that what lies ahead is not going to be good.
I was surprised to see that Jonny Greenwood did the score for this film. I've only really known him as the guitarist in Radiohead but he really made me take notice in this film. The music is eerie and dark, and sometimes quite simple. I like the fact that the film did not take a grand orchestra kind of feel and decided to keep it light and impactful.
The acting was one of the highlights of this film. I have never seen a film by Daniel Day Lewis before watching this and he played this tortured man well. The finest moment in the film for Lewis is the climax where he and Paul Dano (Eli) is driven by regret, anger and betrayal. Dano was great in the film, especially in his sermons where he lets it all out. The supporting cast were also good but the focus is really on the main two, and also Plainview's son (H.W. Plainview played by Dillon Freasier).
There Will Be Blood is a film that needs repeated viewings and requires patience in order to appreciate it. It contains strong performances and good cinematography and also an excellent score from Greenwood. Anderson's screenplay may have moments that I personally do not like but has enough gems in there to keep me entertained. I hope the next Paul Thomas Anderson film I watch impresses me a bit more than this.