Plot: Based on Upton Sinclair’s novel, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an oil prospector with a competitive appetite. He takes in an orphan and attempts to take control of a small community called Little Boston that is sitting on a pile of oil.
Who’s it for: If you’ve been waiting for the typical Paul Thomas Anderson, you need to keep waiting. This isn’t it. Also, it’s about two and a half hours, so get comfortable.
Expectations: Director Anderson is behind “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights” and my favorite of his, “Magnolia.” With films like this it’s hard not to get excited beforehand, especially when Daniel Day-Lewis joins.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview: Daniel is a man of few words, but when he speaks the ground practically rumbles. Day-Lewis adds a new wrinkle to his accent and it’s insanely engaging. You’re constantly drawn into his rough exterior only to be constantly frustrated by his actions.
Paul Dano as Eli Sunday: Eli is a young, excited preacher who looks at Daniel as more of a problem than a solution, that is of course unless Daniel helps the church. Dano became known as the silent one in “Little Miss Sunshine” and he is definitely given the chance to shed that label. Eli is supposed to drive us nuts most of the time he’s on screen, as he goes well overboard with his faith.
Talking: Not much. The first 20 minutes are sans dialogue. There are a few scattered scenes with intense back and forth arguments, especially between Daniel and Eli. Also, the conversation between Daniel and his grown son H.W. is devoid of feeling.
Sights and sounds: It’s a beautiful score mixed with a high-pitched short squeal. Luckily, the squeal is rare. Visually, there is great detail taken in the town of Little Boston, and the most dynamic looking scene is when oil is finally struck in the town and a bellowing fire erupts.
Best Scene: Daniel needs a favor. And this means he must throw himself to the church. Eli sucks this up and gives his congregation a great show by slapping the devil out of Daniel. But if you watch closely, Daniel seems to be loving every moment, while sizing up Eli for revenge.
Ending: The tables have turned now and Eli must ask Daniel for help. This gives Day-Lewis a chance at a great monologue, and it’s always good for a film to end with a boost of energy even if it feels out of place.
Random Thoughts: For as curious and defensive as Daniel is, I really needed him to make some sort of comment about Paul and Eli being twins. And I really needed more out of the relationship between Daniel and his son H.W. Either more of a distance or more of a connection would have helped the culmination of their relationship.
Rewatchability: I want to sit through Day-Lewis’ performance again, and Anderson always gives great effort with his DVDs. But I am pretty sure I can do what Anderson didn’t; edit the film down to about an hour and a half.
“There Will Be Blood” takes us on a journey of the life and times of Daniel Plainview, an oil prospector who eventually becomes an oil tycoon. Business is all that Daniel cares about, and for him that also means ruining his competition. It seems that everything else (family, religion, friends) just get in the way for Daniel. The problem is that while we watch, all the other stuff seems to get in the way for us. If Day-Lewis isn’t front and center, the film drags with themes such as oil vs. religion, and greed is always around us. Yes, there will be blood, there will be brilliance by Daniel Day-Lewis, but there won’t be much else.
Overall Grade: 7