#217 There Will Be Blood

(2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)

“If I say I am an oil man you will agree”

The title of this movie warns us that there will be blood. Obviously, this means that There Will Be Blood must be either a horrifically gory horror movie or a Tarantino-style gangster flick. So which one is it? What do you mean it’s neither of those things?

No, it turns out that There Will Be Blood is a period drama about oil drilling. Doesn’t sound thrilling, but you might know this one for its infamous “I drink your milkshake” line. It tells the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an oil prospector in the early 20th century, who strikes gold in the form of oil. Over the years this leads him to build up a hugely successful oil business.

He’s then approached by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), who informs him of a huge oil deposit underneath their ranch. And so, Daniel swoops in and sets up a drill, building up the local community in the process. However, he doesn’t quite see eye to eye with Paul’s twin brother Eli (also Paul Dano), and conflicts emerge.

So, first things first, There Will Be Blood doesn’t actually have that much blood in it. It’s a really misleading title, and in fact there are only tiny amounts of blood seen throughout the film. There is also a bizarre hymn about blood about three quarters of the way through, but that’s about as close as we get.

However, there is a lot of Daniel Day-Lewis’ face, and that’s a good thing because he’s a pretty awesome actor. The entire film revolves around his character, and in fact there are barely any shots that he isn’t in. It’s quite a feat for this one man to carry the whole film, but he does, and he does it well. Plainview comes across as charming as he is ruthless, and for a character who ultimately does some very bad things, the performance actually makes him very identifiable.

However, his drunken moments are occasionally a little ridiculous, including the famous milkshake line. I found it very hard to take him seriously when he was stumbling around, even less so when he waddles across a bowling alley talking about straws. Day-Lewis was certainly better at playing dignified than he was playing drunk.

But how does the plot hold up beyond our central character? Very well, in fact. It’s very well-paced; what initially felt like twenty minutes to me was actually the first hour of the movie, so it whizzes by pretty quickly and keeps the viewers’ attention. I never noticed any real issues with the plot either. Everything made sense and very little seemed to be added for the sake of it.

In fact, this surprised me, because I never had any expectations to like this movie, but I did. It was dark and moody, but managed to be this without being overbearing. The characters felt real, the world felt believable, and above all else, the movie was entertaining.

There were some issues though. Paul Dano, while excellent in Little Miss Sunshine, wasn’t that great here. Far too much of his character made him out to be a powerful figure in the community as the local priest, but this failed to come through in his performance. He was weedy and slimy, and it felt difficult to believe that he’d built up such a large, devoted religious following. Sure, he did a great job of making Eli’s occasional smugness feel immensely punchable, but there was little else that really worked in the character’s favour.

I also wasn’t fond of the music, which felt like the Lost soundtrack had wandered off into the wrong place. It didn’t feel suitable for the setting, but to make this worse, there were also times when it didn’t feel suitable for the mood of the scene. Ominous tuneless drones don’t really sound appropriate all the time, and yet this is all we had, it seemed.

But I can’t really fault There Will Be Blood much beyond that. It’s got a great story, great acting from Day-Lewis, and it looks fantastic. There may not be much blood, but there will be a great movie in it for you if you watch this.

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis & Paul Dano
Written by Upton Sinclair (novel – “Oil!”) and Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson & Daniel Lupi
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Cinematography by Robert Elswit
Edited by Dylan Tichenor

Favourite Scene: The inevitable bust-up between Plainview and Eli partway through the film. You know it’s coming, and it’s awesome when it does
Scene That Bugged Me: That church chanting about blood, which came across as hilarious instead of…whatever Anderson was going for there

Watch it if: You want context for “I drink your milkshake”
Avoid it if: The title led you to believe there is a lot more blood

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Posted on September 12, 2013, in 2000s, Drama, Historical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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