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There Will Be Blood Review: Drills & Dishonesty

Daniel Day-Lewis sits looking at a fire in a black and white still from the film There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a horrifying look at the eternal conflict between power, religion, and ambition.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 158′
Release Date: January 25, 2008
Where to watch: on digital & VOD, and on DVD & Blu-Ray

In There Will Be Blood, renowned oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, of Phantom Thread) travels to Little Boston after hearing about an untapped source of oil underneath one family’s small farm. It’s here where Plainview meets Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, of Spaceman), a charismatic preacher who sells his land to Plainview in return for funding toward his church.

The film has been praised endlessly since its release in 2007, and the main reason for its universal acclaim is simple: where many films either opt for entertainment value or intellectual meaning, There Will Be Blood manages to perfectly balance that line. Paul Thomas Anderson’s story is incredibly plot-forward and narrative-driven, which keeps audiences invested in what’s going to happen next, but the writer also uses this ongoing conflict between Plainview and Sunday to explore a much deeper question of how capitalism, power, and religion can ever exist within the same sociopolitical system.

Throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, PTA established himself as somebody whose films often relied on their aesthetics and characters to tell the story, rather than a detailed plot with overt symbolism and metaphors. Films like Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love take the audience on a much more emotional and subjective journey where scenes don’t necessarily impact each other but rather serve as picturesque slices of a more complete whole. There Will Be Blood is the complete opposite: this is a story that demands the audience’s attention from start to finish, leaving the trails of its true meaning hidden in the details of Plainview’s story. There are twists and turns throughout, which is why many viewers are keen to label this as PTA’s most engaging work to date, but there’s also an intricate sense of planning and purpose to the entire narrative.

Anderson is always trying to say something specific with There Will Be Blood, whether that’s about the all-consuming nature of capitalist greed, the captivating dangers of established religion, or even much simpler ideas like Plainview’s struggles being a father, every single scene relates to an overarching theme that’s woven expertly throughout the narrative. But he doesn’t always give the audience the answers to the questions that he poses – the film doesn’t take a specific stance on these issues, but rather explores the inability for so many conflicting ideas to exist within the same space. Religion, capitalism, patriarchy – they all have their strengths, but There Will Be Blood almost serves as Anderson’s playground to examine how modern society has morphed these concepts to their ugly extremes.

Daniel Day-Lewis crouches in the desert with a pipe in his mouth, a man standing behind him, in the film There Will Be Blood
There Will Be Blood (Miramax)

On a purely cinematic level, There Will Be Blood is essentially faultless. The visuals are absolutely stunning throughout, the performances from both Day-Lewis and Dano are among their all-time best, and the production design goes above and beyond the necessary in every instance. It’s this level of dedication from the crew both in front and behind of the cameras that makes There Will Be Blood feel so special – it’s impossible to watch the film without knowing that you’re experiencing something more elevated and detailed than most other films of the era. The film proves that you don’t need excessive action or unnecessary twists to make a film engaging, just a level of talent that knows how to bring storytelling to life and give it purpose.

If nothing else, There Will Be Blood gave an entirely new purpose to the ‘drama’ genre. It proved that these kinds of small-scale stories with intricate writing and little action don’t have to be boring at all, but with well-tuned character work and compelling performances, can actually be some of the most exciting movies out there. Anderson knows exactly how to make thrilling stories out of the simplest of concepts, using the conflict between certain ideas and themes to create tension. Despite being the most plot-focused and narrative-driven story in his filmography, it’s actually one of the most accessible thanks to his innate understanding of what audiences are looking for in these kinds of dramas – characters to root for, characters to root against, and reasons to do just that.

Get it on Apple TV

There Will Be Blood is now available to watch on digital and on demand.

All Paul Thomas Anderson Films Ranked – Loud And Clear Reviews
We’ve ranked the feature films of Paul Thomas Anderson from worst to best in celebration of his latest release.

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