Wowie-hell, a super awesome movie.
D-D Lewis is Plainview, ruthless oilman and master manipulator who worked hard to get rich and aims to get richer and nobody better get in his way. Paul Sunday Dano (the kid from L.I.E., the vow-of-silence brother in L.M. Sunshine) plans to start a church and get rich off religion and nobody better get in his way. They get plenty in each other’s way but little Sunday is no match for the awesomely awesome awesomeness of fuckin Plainview, the scariest man in the movies. There is, finally, blood, but before it shows up, TWWB has already out-horrored this year’s batch of horrors.
C. Jerry Kutner:
There Will Be Blood is a well-shot, well-acted film with epic ambitions, but where it falls shortest is in its attempt to link Plainview to the greed and folly of the Reagan/Bush years. All the obvious elements are there – oil, blood, unfettered dog-eat-dog capitalism, and its unholy alliance with organized religion – but unlike, say, Chinatown or even Citizen Kane, There Will Be Blood never quite connects the dots. Thus, politically speaking, Anderson’s latest film fails to move beyond the specific to the universal. It remains a story about aberrant individuals, setting us up for some great unexpected insight about community and our present-day world that it never delivers.
It’s an origin story of sorts. The opening images of desert hills and a droning electronic chord allude to the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose murderous apes are part of a Darwinian continuum with Daniel Plainview.
The “blowing” of this gusher causes H.W.’s deafness (conveyed in one of the few portions of the movie which adopt the subjective point of view, e.g. the dropping out of the soundtrack as Plainview rescues the boy and carries him to safety), and renders him alien to Plainview. H.W. has been the only person Plainview has ever really confided in. Now he can’t communicate with him. Plainview’s exchange with his right hand man Fletcher Hamilton (Cieran Hinds) is telling in a number of ways. “Is H.W. okay?” Fletcher asks. “No, he’s not okay,” Plainview says. Soon, he looks again at Fletcher. “What are you so miserable about? We’ve got an ocean of oil under our feet…and only I can get at it!” Note the use of the first person singular here. Of course it suggests Plainview’s selfishness, callousness…but it also suggests a sundered partnership. Had H.W. been standing with Plainview and Fletcher, uninjured and whole, Plainview would have been speaking to H.W., and he would have said “we.”
For all its measured pacing, exquisitely framed long takes and parched period beauty, There Will Be Blood finally cannot contain the reservoirs of Day-Lewis’s intense melancholy. Not so much a slow burn as a damning accumulation of moments, unforgiving in their spareness, the film seems structured like a two-and-a-half-hour self-denial capped by a horribly therapeutic self-actualization.