There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood 2007There_Will_Be_Blood_Poster
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Notable Appearances: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano
Genre: Drama, Period

Let’s get it right out of the way; this film owes everything to Stanley Kubrick. It is with both reverence and cold criticism that I remark that this could be slid right next to Eyes Wide Shut in the Kubrick box-set without most people evening noticing the difference. It’s all there; the detached storytelling, the long tracking shots, the framing of characters (both alone and in conversation), the sparse dialogue, the quiet/spacious atmosphere, the set-pieces, the detailed period-specifics, the insane main character, the black humor (as famous as Stanley and as black as the oil spewing from every corner of this story)… hell, even the end titles play in Kubrickian fashion. While this undeniable influence/theft-of-style can be critically seen as a detriment to the film – pulling away the curtain to reveal the Magician’s secrets, ruining the illusion – I really just don’t give a fuck. While this was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love), my brain doesn’t recognize that while watching this and instead I’m just enjoying another one of my favorite director’s masterpieces. And don’t be mistaken, this is a masterpiece. For the definition of a masterpiece is an artwork which announces to the world that an artist is no longer training, but has in fact achieved something great enough to be considered a master of their field. Originality be damned, P.T. has ascended to the ranks of Hitchcock, Scorcese, and yes, Kubrick. Sadly, Stanley is dead and won’t be making anymore movies. But Anderson will be. And now that we’ve completed that portion of this review, let’s actually talk about the movie.

Adapted from the book Oil! by Upton Sinclair (another classic Kubrick move), this is the story of oil-baron Daniel Plainview and his journey from young, starved, penniless prospector to wealthy, soulless, leader of the field. And the people he exploits and kills along the way. While the film can be enjoyed simply on the level of a Shakespearian, scandalous, and bloody rise of one man who sells his soul out of greed, it can also be enjoyed as a commentary on the American version of free-enterprise and organized religion. The DVD is packaged in an eco-friendly slipcase and the carbon usage of it’s production has been off-set so it should come as no surprise that the film is really a scathing indictment of both American staples. I’m always a bit surprised when I find that a film gets made which is so incredibly damning of the establishment, but then I remember most people are only paying attention to Daniel Day-Lewis’s crazed acting tour-de-force (although Paul Dano is quite good as well) and the eye-popping visuals (mostly achieved without the aid of CGI, thank you). Both of which are justly celebrated and both of which the film lives and dies on. And it knows it. So it does everything it can to highlight them both. And really, it’s a distillation of what films are truly made of; acting and cinematography. Also of note is Jonny Greenwood’s score (a member of Radiohead), which is understated and effective. This is a stellar portrait of artists working at the top of their game and it is not to be missed. A hard five stars.