“There Will Be Blood”
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
“I have a competition in me; I want no one else to succeed.” — Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest story, that some of us waited five years for, “There Will Be Blood” is a dazzling film that reassures trust in the future of this complete storyteller. First, what’s never failed to impress me, four—now five—films deep, is Anderson’s ability to grow and dive deeper into humanity with each time up at bat. As “Punch-Drunk Love” confirmed our hopes that the young writer/director hadn’t just been on a lucky streak with multi-character Los Angeles stories, “…Blood” proves to be Anderson’s boldest project.
Determined to rise out of a hole in the ground with his much sought after fortune, we follow Mr. Plainview from underground, spouting black gold out onto the dirt, then finally to the marble floors that shine under his feet. Beginning in the late eighteen hundreds this is a grim journey of self destruction. The rise and fall of an opportunist. While his robust aggression toward his craft, oil digging, made him a sought after middle-weight institution the ruthless intimidation tactics exposed the underbelly, sweat, lies, and blood that inevitably follows a man with power and success.
Plainview is a conqueror. When met by a young faith pledging boy, a challenge to posses something he had yet to own was of high importance. Sinking his teeth into a slice of American pie, he conquered his little goal. Until the next challenge was placed in his path, he met it face on, eager to conquer that, then the next thing, and whatever was lying just beneath the surface on the other side of the grassy knoll. A self proclaimed family man. An oil man. A wealthy man. A man looking for his place in the world. A world with a wide open range lying on millions of acres still untamed with endless possibility.
Watching the dry and crackling light in every scene brings back memories of “The Searchers,” “El Topo,” “Fort Apache,” or even a rich smoothness from “Westworld.” Anderson’s camera and scenic design makes the dirt, dust, and oil seem appetizing. The wide open space shot through anamorphic lenses gives you a sense of longing for a time when prospecting was still a job and land, real life land, was able to be tamed if you had the hands to reach out and claim it. Cinematographer Robert Elswit deserves a mention. Having shot all of Anderson’s previous films, as well as some other big scale Blockbusters over the years, he’s gone relatively unnoticed in comparison to some of these contemporary American celebrity cinematographers such as Roger Deakins or Robert Yeoman. Elswit’s style doesn’t call much attention to itself like, say, Yeoman’s. Elswit’s frames are patient, settled, and clearly show a trust in the actors to simply breathe. “Hard Eight/Sydney” certainly was a firm stepping-off point for the director/cinematographer team, then back with “Magnolia,” and coming to a beautiful point with “Punch-Drunk Love” and “…Blood,” one can only wait to see where they’ll go next.
The 158min. running time blinks past you in a rush of anticipation. Anderson’s tale is lined with a delicate mix of musical tone and heart beating rhythmic score lending itself to the very soul of the film. A good tap on the shoulder to the Coen Bros. “No Country For Old Men” which featured no music score or accompaniment—also proving to be an affective tool. Both films share a fresh breath of silence melting us even deeper into the mise-en-scène with each viewing.
The film, though respectfully Anderson’s creation, does shadow such great films as “Barry Lyndon,” “Citizen Kane,” and to a further stretch “Sweet Smell of Success.” Where, as in all good stories, the line is clear, straight, and able to grab hold of you and take us along with it. “There Will Be Blood” doesn’t pass judgment, doesn’t tell us right from wrong, it simply presents us with options. If it’s Barry Lyndon, Charles Foster Kane, or J.J. Hunsecker the objective is crystal clear. This is what I want and I will do anything to get it.
Like many of the pictures from Anderson’s fellow new American New Wave auteurs, “There Will Be Blood” should go away, respectfully, for ten years and we’ll then resume conversation on this important American film.
— Jon Dambacher
For most of its length it lived up pretty well to some of the superlatives in reviews. The score is magnificent. I thought it dropped off towards the end, even while it had more of an interesting Kubrickian feel, there was an edge of feelbad cynicism, but that may be cos it went to places i wasn’t particularly wanting, and more about me than the quality or meaning. Anyway, I’d say it was Anderson’s strongest yet, far surpassing the Coens’ Oscar winner..
Thanks for your detailed film review and analysis, Jon. Just another film I need to see, as I have to shamefully admit that I have yet to see the film (I do have it reserved at my local library, but there is still a long cue for it). I am one of those people who come to these things after the fact. Maybe, because I usually assume most current movies are not worth the bother, I am too inclined to stay at home and miss out on the good stuff that does come out. That is what contemporary film criticism is all about – getting us in touch with what is good out there. This looks to be one of the best films of this decade, from what I have heard on site. I don’t know P.T. Anderson’s work, so I have a lot of catching up to do. That’s what we (at least, me) are here for – to expand those gaps in our viewing.
Aside from his original storytelling and magnificent cinematography, what I like most about PT Anderson’s work is we can always expect something bigger, better and completely different with each of his films. His next film will have some pretty big shoes to fill after There Will Be Blood. I have to agree that this is perhaps one of the best films so far this decade. The long, wide shots and extensive metaphors give the film a very, as stated above, “Kubrikian” vibe, and while many people I have spoken to did not like the ending, I found it one of the best endings I have seen in awhile. The film reminded me a lot of Giant. I know the Sinclair novel was written long before Giant, and I often wonder if that film was inspired by the book, as was TWBB. Anderson’s films are pure cinematic gold. What accomplishments for such a young man. I am certain Criterion will be getting his films into their catalogue eventually, as soon as they can snatch up the rights to one or two of them.
I don’t know. I just saw this again on Showtime recently, and the score annoyed me as much as ever, and the ending seemed kind of ridiculous. I mean the whole, “I drink your milkshake!” is one of the most over-the-top lines I’ve ever heard. I do think the film is as good, if not better, then No Country for Old Men, but those elements still bother me about the film. Maybe I’m alone in this, I find I’m alone in my opinion regularly…
I would agree it is probably PTA best film but TWBB is NOT a great film! Its a good film and thats all. I agree with col dax II. And No Country for Old Men is NOT a great movie either!
No, you are not alone Col. Dax. I just saw this for the first time a few days ago and although I think it is a good film and beautiful to look at, I don’t quite see what all the fuss was about. To each his own I guess. I enjoyed No Country For Old Men much more than this one.
btw, welcome back Dax, we thought we lost you.
I’m a great admirer of TWBB, and would probably wind up selecting it as my candidate for best film of the decade. I can’t entirely disagree about the ending, though. It does rather feel like it comes out of nowhere, but really, what other ending could there have possibly been? And in the end, after multiple viewings, I find myself carried away by the sheer brilliance of Day Lewis’ performance. The pure hate shining in those eyes just grabs me every time.
Dax, can you be more specific about your problems with Greenwood’s score?
So Dax, are the score that annoy you and the ending that bothers you enough to really seriously detract from the ultimate impact of the film? I don’t want you to feel like I’m picking on you, and I’m not disparaging your opinion in any way, truly, I’m just wondering where the dividing line is between a mere annoyance and a total dealbreaker.
I guess the question might wind up being this: are there very many movies that are absolutely and completely perfect and brilliant in every possible way? As much as I love VERTIGO, there are elements that annoy. For example, I’ve always felt that Scottie’s apartment looks like nothing so much as a particularly cheap set for a particularly cheap TV show, I’ve never believed anyone actually lived there. Annoying, but not annoying enough to really detract from the film. And maybe I’m missing a point being made: is the general blandness of his apartment, the lack of any real personal elements on display, possibly a comment on the person who lives there?
I felt Greenwood’s score was intrusive. Every single minute it was on in the film I do actually have a difficult time concentrating on the action. It is a beautiful score on its own, but it was not right for this film. Like you, Roscoe, I think the ending comes out of nowhere, but I can’t think of another one.
Also, like you, Roscoe, I’m completely entranced by Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. I can completely forgive the films problems because I can just sit and watch Lewis and be completely drawn in. If this had been any other film these problems would have been to glaring to get over, but Lewis’ performance alone makes the film one of the best films of the year, and decade. It has some annoying elements, but it’s overcome by Lewis, and PTA’s very confident, and smart direction. Plus the cinematography… Oh, I could talk about the beautiful perfection of the cinematography for days on end… every shot was perfect.
Thanks, Soybean… I hate all my friends.
Dax, you fool with no taste. How can you not appreciate the genius of Greenwood’s score?
Funny, the score never bothered me, it never intruded on my enjoyment. It did for me what a score should do, it supported and enhanced the experience. Well, maybe once, when I recognized Arvo Part’s “Fratres” being used, and it kind of took me out of the film. Otherwise, I bought it completely.
Agreed completely about Day Lewis’ performance. It never gets stale.
To all who are interested in Greenwood: if you haven’t yet heard his score for the montage quasi-doc Bodysong, get your hands on it, it’s great.
Roscoe… you’re not the first to say that, I doubt you will be the last. I liked the score for No Country… more, that was enhancing. You don’t even notice it, it took me till the third time to notice many of the scenes with music, but if it wasn’t there the scenes would feel flat.
And, if you haven’t, you must hear Radiohead’s “Airbag.” That is the perfect song.
Love me some Radiohead.
So while we’re on the subject of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, here’s a question that I’ve been wondering about. In the final scene, Plainview tells Eli that Paul Sunday has a nice little business of his own, with a couple of producing wells making like $5,000 a week or something.
Does anyone believe him?
He might lie, but he sure had some conviction in his voice when he said it. I would imagine this characters pretty adept at lying, though, so, I wouldn’t really trust much of what he said.
There was a score for No Country? I don’t think so.
Yeah, there was. Original music by Carter Burwell. It’s normally extremely slight, which is why I like it.
Godfrey Cheshire has been able to articulate my own problems with There Will Be Blood (and P.T. Anderson in general) far more eloquently than I could on my own, so I will let him speak for on this one.
Read the whole thing. But here is a taste:
When any art tilts toward decadence, an anxious aesthetic nostalgia brings forth young would-be artists who produce florid, half-baked imitations of earlier, better works and critics who exhaust the thesaurus in hailing their derivative creations as nothing short of exalted perfection.
This, in a nutshell, is the story of Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s not just the story of one obviously talented but imitative, unsure and very uneven writer-director who manages to produce five diverse features by the time he’s 37, films that would have had him regarded as an interestingly ambitious wannabe 30 years ago yet today have him headed “into the pantheon,” according to The New York Times. It’s also, necessarily, a story of old-line cinephile culture sucking its own fumes, of critics old and young not only wishing They Still Made’em Like They Used To, but convincing themselves that They Still Do—And Even Better, By Golly!
When I wrote about Boogie Nights, Anderson’s 1997 breakthrough, I started out opining that the extravagantly over-the-top critical reaction to the film struck me as far more interesting than the film itself, a well-acted but sitcom-like and satirically limp romp through the SoCal porn industry. “When,” I wondered, “did so many reputable critics write so many preposterous things all at once?”
If Boogie Nights set some kind of record in that regard, and Anderson’s subsequent woozy-mystical and more-imitative-than-ever Magnolia upped the ante even further, his new There Will Be Blood seems headed for the Mount Rushmore of Ecstatic Overreaction. Numerous critics’ polls and awards have named it the best film of 2007, and if the Oscars are held this year, it will surely be the film to beat for Best Picture. So the following dissent is, once again, very much a minority opinion.