2007

Film #431: There Will Be Blood (2007)

When we last met Daniel Day-Lewis he was a fresh faced star still working in small budget British films for Jim Sheridan. But since then his star soared and he was an in demand figure primarily due to the fact that he didn’t accept all that many projects. Later on we’ll see an Oscar-nominated turn from him but first we look at the film that won him his second Academy Award.

It takes a special kind of actor to make a line about milkshake drinking sound intense, but thankfully Day-Lewis is that kind of Thespian. However, There Will Be Blood isn’t a film set in a Wimpy, instead the milkshake line is an analogy used by the film’s lead character Daniel Plainview to explain oil drainage. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film centres on Plainview; a ruthless oilman who manipulates communities at the turn of the century in order to drill their land for oil. An atmospheric opening twenty minutes look at Plainview’s rise to the top and also explain how he came to become the adopted father of a young lad simply known as H.W. The majority of the film takes place in Little Boston, California; where Paul Sunday has informed Daniel that his family’s ranch has oil underneath it. After paying off Paul; Daniel travels to the ranch where he meets the family including Paul’s twin brother; sanctimonious preacher Eli. Anderson attempts to make There Will be Blood epic in scale by including some rather memorable moments starting with an oil spill that ends with H.W. losing his hearing. Later H.W. burns down the house he and his father are staying in and this results in him being sent off to a school for the deaf. However Anderson’s screenplay is more concerned with the feud between Eli and Daniel which sees both embarrass the other. Eventually they become family of sorts when H.W. marries Eli’s youngest sister Mary. However, the aforementioned milkshake scene doesn’t end well for Eli as he has a run in with a drunken Daniel and a bowling pin.

This final scene sees Day-Lewis maintain the intensity that he has displayed throughout almost the entire two and a half hour film. His brilliance is displayed early on when he is forced to communicate without the aid of a script. However, thanks to Anderson’s storytelling ability, Day-Lewis gives us a strong idea of his character without saying a word. Day-Lewis similarly is able to turn on the charm when needs be and occasionally showcases Plainview’s vulnerable side. Additionally he interacts well with Paul Dano, who we last saw in Little Miss Sunshine, who excels as both Paul and Eli Sunday. One of the film’s most memorable scenes sees Eli getting Daniel to admit that he’s abandoned H.W. by sending him off to school. This scene is later reversed when Daniel gets Eli to renounce himself as a false prophet in order to let him drill on the land that he’s already drained. As well as Day-Lewis’ win; There Will Be Blood also triumphed in the cinematography category thanks to Robert Elswit’s sumptuous camera work. Elswitt makes us believe that we’re in the early 20th century and is able to capture the spirit of a close-knit community drawn together by a God-fearing preacher.
Also worthy of praise is Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood who provided an emotive score that added another dimension to the film. Greenwood’s score was best utilised in the earlier scenes as it allowed the audience to understand just what was being said by the characters. Unfortunately, Greenwood was ineligible to be considered for the Best Original Score award due to the fact that some of the music was based on prior material. Whilst this is a mini travesty, it doesn’t take away from what is ultimately a masterpiece in film-making and a worthy Best Picture nominee. In fact I would go as fas as to say that There Will be Blood deserved the Best Picture that year; a point I will assess in more detail once we get to the movie that was awarded the top prize at the 2008 ceremony.

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