Anderson’s ‘Bloody’ Masterpiece
by James Mrohs


There Will Be Blood is, above all, a difficult film. It is a story about family and the ugliness inside of oneself much more so than it is about oil or blood. This is not a film that everyone will enjoy, and not everyone that enjoys it will fully comprehend all of it. But it is a fantastic composition about the American West at the turn of the twentieth century, the complexity and ferocity of family, and what the frontier truly had to offer to those willing to do anything for it.

There Will Be Blood begins with scenes of the protagonist Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) digging for silver in a deep black pit against a drab grey sky. Continuing on to oil with Daniel then, the beginning of this film serves as a nearly mute introduction to the brutality of the frontier and the gruesomeness that must be endured to survive and thrive. The film follows the life of Daniel from here as a small oil tycoon, chronicling the struggles of him and his son H.W. in discovering and acquiring an enormous oil field, and the conflicts between a charismatic young minister, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), with an investment in Daniel. It is a harsh story deeply woven together through the indomitable greed, anger, and paranoia of the human spirit, without subtlety or more than a glimpse of compassion.

As the fifth movie by director Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood is a far cry from Boogie Nights or Punch Drunk Love, showing a more harsh, real, and domineering side of the director than any of his previous films. Anderson also wrote the screenplay, which borrows from Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, but ultimately it is truly a story of it’s own. The settings and scenery are all beautiful and yet bleak, reflecting the gruesomeness of the drilling by making the oil appear as a blackened pustule on the land.

The performance by Day-Lewis had an unearthly powerful quality of drawing you into the character while at the same time alienating you from his festering displeasure with the world, while Dano is refreshing yet still vigorous and commanding in scenes. While Day-Lewis may be the star both of the story and in his performance, a close second would have to be the film’s score. Violins and cellos sing through the entire film, either resonating frantic madness or eerie exposition, punched intermittently by a piano, and paused only for the punctuating rhythms of percussion admitting to the western wildness a most earthly beat. Jonny Greenwood, of Radiohead, composed the score for the film, and it is a tremendously dramatic and frighteningly fitting, accenting everything it can without ever overstepping its bounds. Any fans of Greenwood’s solo album Bodysong would do well to check out this film, for at least the score.

The gargantuan of this movie cannot be much overstated, but it can however be well reinforced through the mentioning that it is a weighty two and a half hours long. This length is not without merit, though, and the movie feels quite complete and without needless asides. While it may be difficult to call There Will Be Blood a truly enjoyable movie because of it’s ultimate subject matter, it is absolutely a terrific cinematographic work and can most definitely be appreciated. It is a thrill to experience, and will not give your mind or heart a chance to settle throughout, and for hours after it ends. It can safely be said that There Will Be Blood may just be one of the most remarkable and tremendous films of the year, and should not be missed.