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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.48%
Average: 4.85%
Pretty Bad: 4.85%
Total Crap: 8.74%

7 reviews, 61 user ratings

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There Will Be Blood
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by Jay Seaver

"Black and bubbling to the surface."
5 stars

It's the music in "There Will Be Blood" that gets me first, even before Daniel Day-Lewis's fantastic performance. Jonny Greenwood's score is something of a blunt instrument, using practically subsonic bass to underscore the ever-present darkness in the main character's soul and frequent crashes to suggest the labor used to feed the man's greed. Not subtle, but effective.

As the movie starts, the music is carrying a lot of the load, as Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is prospecting alone and not one to waste words when there's no-one there to hear them. He could perhaps use a partner, as the process leaves him injured and near dead by the time he strikes oil. He builds up a small company, but allows no-one close to him until a worker dies, leaving behind a baby that Daniel takes as his own. He calls the boy H.W., and ten years later is introducing H.W. as his partner and son. H.W. (Dillon Freasier) is there when Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) sells them the location of a field with oil seeping right through the surface. The owner of that field, Paul's father Abel (David Willis), has another son, Eli (Dano again), a preacher who wants more than money from Daniel. The Plainviews do strike oil, but it comes at a terrible price. Word of Daniel's success also attracts a ne'er-do-well brother (Kevin J. O'Connor) who he hasn't had contact with in years.

Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't show his face on a movie set for anything less than a fantastic, award-worthy part these days, and Plainview is a corker. He's a beast, of course, displaying a cold ruthlessness in his business dealings and a practiced formality in his dealings with others until the time comes for his rage to break through. He's self-aware without winking at the audience, and Day-Lewis not only delivers lines about how Plainview hates most people instinctively in a way that's matter-of-fact but not confessional; he's not ashamed of it, just canny enough to realize that it's detrimental to let most people know this. Day-Lewis takes this confession to heart, and it's part of almost every scene he plays - he's either holding back his disdain or loosening the reigns on his anger.

And yet, despite all that, Day-Lewis and filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson give us a character who is captivating beyond being a monster. I suspect even people far more religious than I will find themselves surreptitiously cheering Plainview as he deals with the hypocrisy and greed of his bible-thumping neighbor: There's a sequence where Eli impresses upon Plainview how the community might appreciate it if Eli delivered a dedication when the town's first rig was opened, and Plainview finds a way to deliver him a lesson in humility. He enjoys it too much, and it likely makes him an enemy for life, but it's hard not to share some of his satisfaction. His relationship with H.W. is also fascinating; there's ample suggestion that the boy is just a way to humanize Daniel to prospective partners, and it's clear that Daniel doesn't really know how to love H.W. as a father should, but there is still his own flawed way.

Naturally, being Daniel Plainview's son will make a kid a bit odd, and Dillon Freasier does a pretty fantastic job of capturing that without making H.W. into something not recognizable as a human child like many other child actors might. There's unconditional love there, but he's also unconsciously absorbed the father's habit of not wearing one's heart on one's sleeve. The other noteworthy performance is Paul Dano, who makes Eli something of a cipher of his own - is he a devout man who is corrupted by pride and envy, or someone who sees the church as the only thing that can build him up to Daniel's level in the community? He makes a fantastic antagonist for Daniel, unctuous piousness contrasted with honest greed and hate.

Anderson uses every tool at his disposal to bring us into this dark place. The sky is never anything but overcast; the whole world of the film is a muddy brown. He contrasts the great wooden derricks Plainview builds (more impressive than the later steel variety, because they combine inhuman sclae with comprehensible technique) with the almost ostentatious modesty of having him sleep on the floor. As much as this is very much a character piece, it's also grand. The length of the film and the wideness of the screen allows Plainview to isolate himself. The music, which I've mentioned, is relentlessly foreboding. Even after we've seen some of the nastiest expressions of human nature, it holds out the promise of worse, right up to the last sequence.

And that end... It's masterful, but not right away. Quite frankly, it initially seems like Anderson has lost his marbles, nastily throwing out many of the shades of gray he'd so carefully built, and in a way that makes it seem like he's treating the whole thing as a joke. After a bit, though, it becomes a thing of beauty: This is a movie about drilling for oil, after all, and what is that but building and digging in hopes that a gusher of the blackest material imaginable will come spewing out? It's been held in a long time, but now it's going to explode faster than we're ready for.

That's a kind of greatness - after two and a half hours, I thought I'd seen it all, but there was still something I wasn't prepared for.

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originally posted: 01/16/08 16:03:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.

User Comments

6/19/15 stanley welles a towering, tour de-force display in cinematic virtuosity 5 stars
12/09/12 Simon sprawling, an art piece, an acting tour-de-force, all the nuance&power a modern movie can b 5 stars
3/29/11 lesterwink23 Spectacular...DDL's Plainview belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of film performances 5 stars
2/21/11 Bert What an awful movie. 1 stars
7/16/10 ES Ugh... this started off so good and went to crap so fast. What a disappointment 2 stars
4/09/10 brian I wanted to take my eyes off of it but couldn't. Day-Lewis is great, as always. 4 stars
3/16/10 king kong a truly awesome film 5 stars
12/16/09 girl there will be milkshakes 5 stars
11/29/09 Jeff Wilder Day-Lewis is superb and the film is well-made. Easy movie to admire but a hard one to love. 4 stars
3/03/09 Sully epic 5 stars
2/24/09 Anonymous. this movie is crazy great. 5 stars
2/09/09 Samantha Pruitt really great acting, slow and builds up at the end! 4 stars
1/31/09 D Every single frame is mesmerizing....incredible work of art 5 stars
1/08/09 Haley Leggitt the comment under mine is dead wrong. this was an incredible film. 5 stars
12/07/08 Jack Sommersby Contextless, dramatically-obvious & laughably self-indulgent. 1 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Phenomenally fractured. 3 stars
11/05/08 Lindsey worth more than just a watch. more like a few watches. :] 5 stars
9/18/08 Phil I. Drink. Your. Milkshake! 4 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 4 stars
6/09/08 AnnieG Perhaps better if you had read the book, but film is almost all atmosphere 2 stars
5/14/08 allen good movie 4 stars
5/06/08 S. K. Marion A briliantly acted/directed/scored morality play-A Greed driven Cain kills Abel again! 4 stars
5/04/08 Justin I think you need to apologise to PTA 5 stars
4/18/08 The Talking Elbow Really overrated but worth watching 3 stars
4/18/08 Krystyna The first guy who reviewed this movie said it better than anyone: "THIS FILM BLOWS" 1 stars
4/17/08 styace dumb ending or maybe i just dont get it? 4 stars
4/13/08 Gr As the Ratings Say - 4 stars = worth a watch 4 stars
4/04/08 Greets A solid, accomplished film, yet lacking a certain something... 4 stars
3/21/08 niki greatness allready had a name: PTA & DDL, now add to that list: TWBB.More power to it! 5 stars
3/18/08 Muralee Thummarukudy I feel sick reading this review. I saw this movie, which was so slow and stupid. 1 stars
3/17/08 damalc mostly boring except for Day-Lewis, brilliant as usual 3 stars
3/17/08 Danny Maybe the worst film ending of all time! 2 stars
3/14/08 Random Plainview's outburst of violence set against the Brahms Violin Concerto was haunting. 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies this movie could have been a classic. it has some overacting and script issues. 4 stars
3/01/08 Catherine HERVIEU Great settings, atmosphere, acting even if Daniel is a bit overacting , the story plot is 4 stars
2/29/08 Monday Morning Big but slow 3 stars
2/18/08 Greg This movie is unbelievably over-rated. I really can't believe all the good press! 1 stars
2/15/08 Joe Too bad there was no story. found oil, bought land, got old, killed a guy, The End 2 stars
2/14/08 Jefenator The epilogue was melodramatic and redundant. But the first 3/4 was tight and DDL was superb 4 stars
2/11/08 zenshark Who knew they still made movies like this? 5 stars
2/07/08 R.W.Welch Maybe the best one-man show since Patton. Pacing a tad deliberate. 4 stars
2/06/08 Marge Plainview is the devil incaarnate. Lewis is a genius. 5 stars
2/05/08 Paul Shortt Exquisite motion picture 5 stars
2/04/08 Lone Wolf Most powerful movie of my lifetime. Left me completely drained. Draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaainge! 5 stars
2/02/08 Daniel Plainview This movie drinks your milkshake. 5 stars
2/02/08 Quigley Great acting by Lewis and superb direction by Anderson but it didn't have enough of a story 4 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic A brilliantly and technically marvellous movie 5 stars
1/26/08 zanna If you didn't like, you're braindead 5 stars
1/25/08 Ramzi Abed Truly awe-inspiring. Worthy of all the praise. Anderson should win an Oscar for directing! 5 stars
1/23/08 b bobble genious, beatiful, orighinal, etc..... 5 stars
1/22/08 Ole Man Bourbon Entertaining movie. It's very figurative, which can be challenging, but it adds to the fun 4 stars
1/21/08 Servo I was blown away by Lewis' performance, the movie itself ... not so much. 3 stars
1/19/08 Mike Wow! Brilliant movie! 5 stars
1/18/08 Freddy SUCKS! What a waste of time! 1 stars
1/17/08 Buttley Brillant. 5 stars
1/14/08 jim SUX 1 stars
1/13/08 curtis this picture assembly is a mess, beautiful in spots, a la Cold Mountain and Gangs of NY etc 2 stars
1/12/08 peter not a real character in it. horrible. praise is "the emperor's new clothes" 1 stars
1/05/08 jordan actually fred you're wrong, this movie is incredible. great review. 5 stars
12/31/07 wabster this movie lacks a "message" in terms of reality. in other words, it 's not meaningful 4 stars
12/30/07 fred g. sanford this film blows 1 stars
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  26-Dec-2007 (R)
  DVD: 08-Apr-2008



Directed by
  Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by
  Paul Thomas Anderson

  Daniel Day-Lewis
  Paul Dano
  Ciarán Hinds

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