There Will Be Blood

Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 
There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, "My Left Foot," "Gangs of New York") is relentless building his oil business, intent on crushing the competition.  One day, he is visited by a young man, Paul Sunday (Paul Dano, "L.I.E.," "Little Miss Sunshine"), who promises him the divulgence of the location of his poor family's farm - land on the California coast practically floating atop oil - for a fee. Plainview takes the bait and furthers the boy's treachery by buying the Sunday's and other residents of Little Boston's land out from under them, but when he comes up against Paul's twin Eli (also Dano), a charismatic evangelical preacher, it is only time before "There Will Be Blood."

From writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's ("Magnolia," "Punch-Drunk Love") first sound and image, "There Will Be Blood" announces itself as something different.  We see a hot, hilly, dusty landscape dotted and hear a creepy, mounting electronic drone, like Dolby's DVD test signal possessed by demons. For the next thirty minutes or so, Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview will scratch in the ground, digging for silver in a decrepit turn of the century mine, scrabbling at the earth for survival.  He'll also fall and get a nasty leg break (the first of many hideous, brutally abrupt accidents) in the middle of nowhere.  His tenacity proves that fortune can be made by hard work, and soon Plainview has a whole crew, one of whom's tragic death leaves him with an adopted son, H.W.  It is H.W. (Dillon Freasier) who accompanies Plainview on the 'hunting trip' to Little Boston, where the kindness of the Sundays will be taken advantage of.

A massive oil derrick will go up, shadowing the church Plainview's agreed to build but not people.  In fact, Plainview has a rather violent reaction to religion and appears to take pleasure in undercutting Eli, who becomes equally determined to 'save' Plainview's soul.  But Anderson does more than pit these two against each other - he explores the tricky bonds of family on both sides of the coin.  The 'holy' Eli, whose own twin betrayed them, berates his father for being a fool.  Plainview, who despite his black heart consistently expounds on the value of family, must make do with other's blood.  When H.W. goes deaf after an explosion, Plainview's values begin to erode - when his grown son (Russell Harvard), now married to Eli's sister, dares strike out on his own, Plainview brands him a competitor.  The half-brother, Henry (Kevin J. O'Connor, "Gods and Monsters," "Van Helsing"), who arrives during the pinnacle of Plainview's success, is warily given uncommon access to the point that H.W.'s rebellious actings out are not recognized for the warnings that they are.

Anderson loosely based his latest on Upton Sinclair's "Oil" and biographies of California oil man Edward Doheny, but this is no biopic.  Instead Anderson's unique vision here propels him over his earlier work.  Everything about this production is bold from Jack Fisk's ("The New World") stark period production design ("Blood" was filmed in Marfa, Texas - the land of "Giant") to the strikingly discordant score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.  And then there is the towering performance by the unparalleled Daniel Day-Lewis, an actor who walks to the edge of the precipice, losing himself in the insanity of his character.  Here is a man who can show genuine concern - but only when it doesn't interfere with business; a man who will spout religious rhetoric as the means to an end but resort to murder to crush it out.  Paul Dano had already established himself as an actor to watch and he steps up to a perilous plate and knocks it out of the park.  His Eli is a snake of a false prophet who initially believes his own spiel for the glow cast back upon him by his parishioners.  The little known Kevin J. O'Connor gives a sympathetic turn as the down-at-heel long lost brother not above celebrating on Daniel's dime.  First timer Dillon Freasier gives an utterly organic performance as the son who does not know his own heritage and Sydney McCallister has presence as his crush and playmate, Mary Sunday. Unfortunately, though, as Plainview's right-hand, Ciarán Hinds (HBO's "Rome," "Margot at the Wedding") fails to make a mark.

"There Will Be Blood" marks a major shift with its last act, jumping decades to now rich as Croesus Plainview living the life of an eccentric in his oceanside mansion.  It's a bit startling, but then there is the even more outrageous last scene, where Plainview and Sunday pitch their last battle in a basement bowling alley.  Day-Lewis's final words -  the sing-songed "I'm finished!," are sure to not only take audience's aback with not knowing what to think but to go down as one of cinema's immortal lines.


Robin gives "There Will Be Blood" an A.
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