There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson's Epic Masterpiece
In my opinion, There Will Be Blood is the greatest film of the 21st century. I know that’s a big statement but I’m only being honest. It’s a film that’s so epic that it’s on its own planet. The level of craftsmanship is beyond masterful while the thematic elements have so much depth. It’s a fucking masterpiece.
This film is responsible for expanding my taste in cinema. I’ve always loved films growing up but I never had that passion for behind the camera until I watched this film. I think I was in my second year at college when I started watching PTA’s films. I started with Boogie Nights and immediately got hooked. Boogie Nights felt like a breath of fresh air so I instantly looked PTA up on IMDb. There Will Be Blood’s title grabbed my curiosity so I watched that next. I’ll never forget that cinematic experience. I felt like I was hypnotized by a true master. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I knew then, There Will Be Blood would become one of my favorite films of all time.
Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite filmmaker of all time. I fucking love his style. Every film of his is not only beautifully shot, but perfectly written. I love the way he crafts stories and I love his characters. They all feel unique and well fleshed out. I’ve seen all of his films and I love all of them, besides Licorice Pizza but that’s a subject for another day. My three favorites that I always go back and forth on are There Will Be Blood, The Master, and Phantom Thread. Still all of his films are unique and fantastic. I think he’s the best filmmaker of the past few decades.
The first 15 minutes of this film has no dialogue. PTA instantly shows off his skills as a filmmaker by nailing “show don’t tell”. We see this lonesome man below the depths of earth mining for riches. His disheveled demeanor and old tools tell us all we need to know. It looks like he’s been digging for months, maybe years. His latter snaps and he falls down the mine, breaking his leg. That doesn’t matter because he finds some riches after blowing up part of the mine. He climbs his way up after breaking his leg and seriously injuring himself. He then proceeds to lay on his back and push himself with his working leg while the camera pans up to mountains. It’s implied he pushes himself like that for miles until he reaches civilization. So brilliant. The rest of that introduction is nothing but intensity and pure cinema.
Side note: when I was in my Intro to Script Writing class in college, I recommended that intro to my script professor to show the class for the “show don’t tell” lesson. It definitely got the point across.
This film has Paul Thomas Anderson’s best direction. From the first shot to the last, his craftsmanship behind the camera is beyond stellar. The way he shoots each scene should be taught in every film school. He truly made this film feel epic. Not only that but the cinematography by Robert Elswit deserved to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography. This is one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen.
I can’t go any longer without praising the score by Jonny Greenwood. It’s one of my all time favorite scores. It’s hauntingly beautiful. Every piece elevates each scene into god territory. It’s very different from every other score out there. I love every piece of music in this film. I constantly listen to it all the time.
Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day fucking Lewis. His performance as Daniel Planview is truly the greatest performance in cinematic history. He commands the screen with his terrifying presence. He’s a horror villain. Not only that but the way he transformed his voice into this old fashioned “plain speaking” is fucking incredible. In every way he nailed the performance in spades. He won that Best Actor Oscar and goddamnit did he deserve it. Every time I watch this film I’m always in disbelief at how someone can deliver such a perfect performance.
Paul Dano deserves so much credit. He went head to head with Day-Lewis and put up one hell of a fight. He’s also equally brilliant. Dano’s Eli Sunday is the foil to our protagonist Daniel Plainview. I LOVE their battle in this film. They are constantly trying to one up each other and they both have this “performance” in getting what they want. Daniel with ambition for money and Eli for religion. Daniel wins in the end but does he really? I’ll get to more of that later. Still Paul Dano deserves more recognition for his performance and he SHOULD’VE been nominated and won an Oscar for it.
My favorite scene in this film is when Daniel Plainview delivers a speech to the citizens of Little Boston. In his speech he talks about digging for oil on their land but he promises the people that he’ll bring so much good to them like roads, schools for the children, and bread. While he’s making all these promises we see shots of his men building the oil derrick. There are no roads being built, schools for the children, or bread. It’s just men building the derrick while Greenwood’s haunting score looms in the background. It’s. Fucking. Perfect. It gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. One of my all time favorite scenes.
I’d call this a horror film. I mean, it’s not a full on horror film but it definitely has horror elements. Like I said before, Daniel Plainview is a horror villain. His descent into becoming this ruthless man is scary to watch. The way he lies and manipulates people into doing his bidding is disturbing to see. He kills a man pretending to be his brother because he cannot fathom the idea of being tricked by another human. He talks about not liking people and how he has a competition in him. He takes a young baby, whose father was killed due to Daniel’s work, and raises him only to make himself look better to people he tries to buy land from. When his son is grown and he decides to venture away from Daniel to start his own business, Daniel sees him as a competitor and calls him an orphan and that he never cared for him. The only person who ever cared for him leaves him because of Danie’s harsh words. His descent is horrifying yet perfectly executed. Even though Daniel got rich like he’s been striving for, he’s alone. In the end, he’s nothing but an old, drunken, shell of a human being.
The ending of There Will Be Blood is my favorite film ending of all time. The entire sequence is perfect. Eli visits Daniel one last time to ask for money. Daniel agrees but only if Eli announces he is a false prophet and god is a superstition. This is revenge for Daniel because of an earlier scene Daniel has to announce to Eli’s church that he abandoned his child so he can get his pipeline deal. Eli shouts over and over what Daniel ordered him to say only for Daniel to tell him he’s not going to help him. He then starts to mock Eli and says the brilliant line “I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” Daniel then beats up Eli once again and even kills him with a bowling pin. The butler comes downstairs after hearing the noise and Daniel is sitting on the ground. Daniel says “I’m finished” and the film ends. Holy shit what an ending.
Like I said before, this film is a cinematic experience like no other. The craftsmanship is perfect across the board, the themes are well executed, and that all adds up to the best film of the 21st century. This film will always be one of my all time favorites.