Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by:Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier, Russell Harvard
Released: February 9, 2008
Grade: A

Six weeks ago, I reviewed No Country For Old Men.  In recognising it as my 2nd favourite film of 2007, I made sure to throw in an important disclaimer – “you’ll either love it or hate it”.  Why?  Well, that’s because of the ending.  It didn’t provide the “closure” that some moviegoers expect.  As frustrating as this may sound, No Country’s finale was appreciated my many film lovers.  It received 8 Academy Award nominations.

There Will Be Blood is a similarly challenging movie.  Its strange ending has generated just as much discussion (if not more) than that in No Country.  If you go and see this film on my recommendation, there’s a likelihood that you will think I am insane.  All I know for sure is my own opinion - this is a unique, stylish and demanding cinematic experience.

The film has been written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  It’s a fact worth pointing out early in this review because I need to disclose my bias.  Paul Thomas Anderson has been my favourite director for many years.  His brilliant works include Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love.  If he made a movie which was nothing more than a blank screen for three hours, I would applaud his artistry.  He can do no wrong in my eyes.

There Will Be Blood is based on the novel Oil! written by Upton Sinclair.  It is the fictional story of Daniel Plainview (Lewis), an ambitious man who created an enormous fortune as an oil tycoon in the early part of the 20th Century.  With unwavering determination and steely confidence, Daniel always got the best of every deal.  He wasn’t out to win friends – all he wanted was wealth and power.  This ruthless attitude was the secret of his success.

Daniel Plainview would be the most interesting character I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.  Throughout the whole film, I was studying his actions, his expressions and his demeanour with the hope of understanding what was going through his mind.  Every time I saw a glimpse of goodness, it was destroyed by a moment of greedy self-obsession.  In this leading role, Daniel Day Lewis (My Left Foot) gives the performance of the year.  He will win the Oscar for best actor.  There is no doubt.

There are several people that Daniel interacts with in the film but the most interesting is that of a young preacher named Eli (played by Paul Dano).  Eli is the leader of a small religious congregation and disapproves of the way that Daniel does business.  What’s interesting that these two characters are very similar – they are both in search of power as a means of gaining respect.  Each time they clash, there is a battle of words to see who can gain the upper hand.  It’s riveting to watch.

This is a different kind of movie for Paul Thomas Anderson.  Instead of having a huge ensemble cast (as was the case in Magnolia and Boogie Nights), the focus is one individual.  That said, the film has Anderson’s fingerprints all over it.  I savoured his use of music (Jonny Greenwood provided the film score) and the stylish way in which he captures each scene with his moving camera lens.  Cinematographer Robery Elswit (Good Night, and Good Luck) also deserves much praise.

Like No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood has earned 8 Academy Award nominations including nods for best picture and best director.  This must be really annoying those movie folk who like neat endings.  Now that I’m running low on superlative adjectives, it’s time for you to stop reading and start heading to the cinema.  Go on, take a chance!