Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) is an Prospector who at the turn of the 1900’s is as successful as they come. He slowly becomes obsessed with fortune at the expense of other people including his bastard son. We spend the majority of the film watching his battle against a local Religious boy; Eli (Paul Dano). Plainview continues to battle Eli as he drills his under nourished home town to make riches from oil that lies beneath.
This is one of the greatest films of the last ten years, a film that channels all the great style from the studio system from post war Hollywood and mixes it with all we have come to love from the richest of modern, Western Cinema.
Jonny Greenwood of ‘Radiohead’ fame does a sublime job of the score for this film for which he rightly won countless awards, although unfortunately was not eligible for an Oscar due to use of ‘pre existing material’. It’s jarring strings and suspenseful creeping piano work is the best that has have offered up in recent years and it acts as a real refreshing change from the norm.
Daniel Day Lewis is on top form and is genuinely frightening as the oil baron Daniel Plainview, his slow descent is captured perfectly by every nuance of Day Lewis’ seemingly endless talent.
Paul Dano channels every ounce of annoyance he can muster as the despicable Eli, a character that despite the ridicule imposed on him by Daniel, you can’t help but hate with a real passion.
The film is shot with incredibly careful eye and has some beautiful wide shots of barren landscape and some frankly unbelievably good track work (look out early on for a scene where Daniel arrives in a car with his son to a township; the music, the mise-en-scene and the tracking shot make it all seem impeccable).
The narrative is the best we have seen from PT Anderson. Opting for two main characters in which to focus the film around (unlike his multi stranded efforts with ‘Magnolia’ (1999) or ‘Boogie Nights’ (1997)) we get his most balanced work to date. Whilst the relationship between Daniel and his ‘bastard from a basket’ son is genuinely heartbreaking, the real star here is the theme of Capitalism (Daniel) Vs Religion (Eli) and it is an epic battle that is played out through two great characters but more importantly; two GREAT actors.
The end is much like the close of a Stanley Kubrick film, after all is said and done it is abrupt and shocking and keeps you in your seat pondering much after the credits begin to roll. After some pondering hindsight provides a feeling that this is storytelling at its best, nothing in this is messy or contrived - it is all immaculately laid out in front of you.
‘There Will Be Blood’ is a pure film which channels great narrative, acting, score and amongst the best cinematography seen in recent years.
Other recommended viewing:
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Punch Drunk Love (2002)
By Shaun Lappin