By Clint Morris
Itâ€™s dark but slick. Itâ€™s attainable but invaluable. Talking, of course, about that sought-after commodity Oil but one could easily be referring to Paul Thomas Andersonâ€™s new film, There Will be Blood. And indeed there will be â€“ Blood â€“ just as much Type O as there are guzzling holes, in fact, as one man attempts to Saddam Hussein-like control it all.
Like his previous effort ”Boogie Nights” â€“ only without the prosthetic dick and the ELO tune â€“ Blood is an epic unlike any epic youâ€™ve ever seen, concentrating on a rather exceptional individual who believes â€“ like Mark Wahlberg did in the former â€“ that heâ€™s â€œGodâ€™s Giftâ€ to his chosen profession.
Set in the 1800s, it stars the silver screenâ€™s greatest chameleon (Gary Oldman would be next) British actor Daniel Day Lewis (who really only recently returned to the big screen, after several years off) as an oil magnate named Daniel Plainview. His latest conquest is buying up â€“ almost- the whole town of Little Boston, California, where he and his men will undoubtedly make a mint from the black stuff under the soil. But itâ€™s not going to be easy getting to the top (or bottom, as is the case here) â€“ thereâ€™s trouble on the wayâ€¦ a family tragedy; a fire; treachery; and a stubborn family who wonâ€™t give up their land to the big-timer, making it difficult to achieve that dream of controlling â€˜allâ€™ – and not having the oil field blessed may have been the turning point â€“ or at least thatâ€™s what the local â€˜Prophetâ€™ (Paul Dano) would have Plainview believe.
Inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel ”Oil!” (1927), There Will be Blood is a masterful achievement that chronicles one manâ€™s â€“ one â€˜insaneâ€™ manâ€™s, you might say â€“ plight to make it rich, but more so, to gain power as the king of the oilfields. He may seem to give two hoots about those around him, but he really doesnâ€™t, this is a man clearly with his own interests at heart.
The screenplay, by Anderson (whose other credits include Hard Eight and Magnolia), is captivating, full of life and choc-full of genuinely memorable moments. The cinematography by Robert Elswit is divine â€“ capturing every beautiful inch of vintage California. And the acting? Well, itâ€™s just bloody fantastic.
Day Lewis is an absolute powerhouse in the movie. Itâ€™s hard enough for a Brit to master the American accent â€“ the actor reportedly watched tapes of John Huston to prepare â€“ let alone unleash a performance thatâ€™s so real youâ€™d swear if you extended your arm towards the screen itâ€™d touch with the manâ€™s skin. Day Lewisâ€™s turn is commanding, intriguing and ultimately, tragic – you canâ€™t take your eyes off him.
Anderson has also beautifully cast the support roles with actors just as solid. Newcomer Paul Dano (seen in ”Little Miss Sunshine”) is outstanding as the somewhat-overbearing town preacher Eli; young Dillon Freasier is terrific and touching as Plainview Jr, and the always adaptable Cirian Hinds (TVs Rome, Miami Vice) gives his most sympathetic turn to date as Plainviewâ€™s doting assistant, Fletcher Hamilton.
”There Will be Blood” is a film far from the usual studio slop â€“ in fact, it was so different from anything a major studio had financed before that it took the producers two years to secure financing (despite Day Lewisâ€™s attachment). If a few more risks could be taken in Tinseltown, we might have more films like this. We can lay in hope, anyway. Meantime, roll on the ”Alvin & The Chipmunks” sequel.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
Additional scenes and the featurettes ”’There Will Be Blood’: Pics, Research, Etc”, “The Story of Petroleum” and “Dailies Gone Wild”. Not a bad bunch of extras (all presented in HD, too), but one probably expects more in the way of bonuses out of a Blu-Ray release.
Thankfully, the audio and video is unsurprisingy magnificent. The nice widescreen presentatoion, accompanied by the 5.1 TrueHD track, truly satisfies.