Simon Ramshaw’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I drink your water. I drink it up, every day. I drink the blood of Lamb from Bandy's tract." - Daniel Plainview
IMMENSE. That's how I describe this film. Everything is super-sized, probably to fit alongside the vast greed of its protagonist and the towering portrayal of him by Daniel Day-Lewis. Since these two things are so massive, Paul Thomas Anderson has to increase the size and quality of everything else to make a well-rounded movie. And he has most certainly done that.
Let's start with the story. There are very few stories that come close to capturing the sheer emotion and gravitas that There Will Be Blood holds. Loosely adapted from Upton Sinclair's Oil!, it is simplistic on the surface, but devastatingly complex beneath the bubbling surface. It's a logical progression from bad to worse in terms of its main character, with Plainview beginning as morally questionable when he fails to tell his 'son' that he is actually adopted (or possibly stolen?) and then becoming utterly despicable from that point onwards. With the weighty yet gracefully-handled themes of nihilism and rampant religion thrown into the mix, this is elegant and well-crafted cinema at its best.
To hold up such a tale and maximise its effectiveness, there needs to be a lead actor with enough passion to make it work. And anybody who ever questioned or doubted the authority and acting prowess of Daniel Day-Lewis as Plainview needs their head examined. I'm confident that this is the greatest performance of all time. He embodies the role to a degree in which you aren't watching an actor anymore; you're watching the walking, talking symbol of capitalism itself. Every tiny detail in Day-Lewis' performance is perfectly judged; from his throbbing veins to his arched eyebrows, there is not a single fault in this mesmerising piece of acting (or living).
With blisteringly visceral efforts from Paul Dano and Kevin J. O'Connor as the pivotal persons in Plainview's life, the supporting cast can do no wrong either. Dano's performance is over-blown sure, but I can't imagine it being performed more appropriately by anyone else or in any other way. His mad preacher is not incredibly unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd in PTA's most recent offering, The Master: both characters are prone to extreme outburts of rage, yet most of the time, they maintain their cool while venting out a sense of unease in every line of dialogue they are given.
PTA also shows his talent for drawing phenomenal child performances, with Dillon Freasier captivating our attention through his subtle performance as the afflicted son of our protagonist (who also functions just as well as an antagonist). It's a chilling and restrained piece of acting that requires a real talent to keep the performance within good taste, and he achieves this on every level.
His success is rather reflective of the film as a whole, since everything works on every level. Jonny Greenwood's score is not entirely dissimilar to The Shining's at certain points, which really racks up the tension for each emotional climax that the film often builds to in various instances. Robert Elswit's cinematography is as immersive as such barren classics as any Sergio Leone film or Australian Western, The Proposition. The expansive yet horribly claustrophobic surroundings of the California deserts are stunning, and the personal highlight for me is the use of shadow in certain scenes: check out the scene on the beach where Daniel is bathed in light, while Henry is shrouded in the shadow of the cliff, or the scene where Eli walks towards the camp and a cloud follows him. These small moments are only revealed on re-watches, and only works to increase the film's quality.
I now think this is even better than it was on the first two viewings. While comparisons to PTA's other works are inevitable, this manages to battle through the other incredible works of art and stand as his personal greatest, with a little help from Day-Lewis' limping, twitching Plainview. Another team-up between the two would never go amiss, and I hope that they see sense and take over the world with their film-making prowess.