There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, a grand tale of unyielding greed set in the American past, tells the tale of an oil prospector named Daniel Plainview, whose all-consuming desire to succeed in his conquest for oil sets him up in opposition to a small-town preacher and isolates him from his adopted son.
Anderson adapted There Will Be Blood from Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, a novel fraught with political significance. In his adaptation, Anderson departs from Sinclair’s novel, opting instead to focus on relationships rather than political ideas, but their specter remains; in Anderson's hands, There Will Be Blood becomes an ambiguous, intense portrait of the demons that plague the American spirit.
Plainview, brought to life with tremendous gusto by actor Daniel Day-Lewis, makes many different impressions. He is, in turn, determined, intimidating, charismatic, preposterous, vile, and, finally, pathetic. There Will Be Blood, like so many other stories of wanton greed, spins a yarn of self-damnation. Plainview becomes so relentless in his pursuit of victory that he becomes blinded to everything else, unable to see the world through any other lens but that of competition.
Paul Thomas Anderson renders Plainview’s story in a series of unforgettable images, beautifully captured by cinematographer Robert Elswit. Towards the opening, Plainview's soon to be adopted son is christened with pitch-black oil, marked for life by its taint. Later, a mishap at an oil well sends a malevolent pillar of flame shooting into the dark sky, like some burst from the inferno. Beneath it all, Jonny Greenwood’s dissonant score sizzles and strains, suggesting the malevolent forces at work in Plainview's soul.