Drinking That Milk Shake
By Adam Sturrock
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil)
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano,
A skraggly, tousled-hair, miner cautiously admires his gem in his hand. For the first 15 minutes of the film, we do not hear him utter a word as he slowly grows in stature and affluence. While most films who dare starting silent be seen as dull, it could be argued that There will be blood is different; with a meticulous story unfolding without dialogue, it seems the opposite of boring.
Daniel Day-Lewis seems to be a nice chap: quietly spoken, seemingly polite; but in the film as Daniel Plainview, he is a truly despicable person. From coming from such humble beginnings as a miner, we kind of root for him, like an oil-orientated Heisenburg but like the TV show, the little chinks in his armor seem to be a charade to get a leg up on his victims.
Blood, sweat and family initially permeate the start of this slow paced film. Carelessly discarding casualties of his oil exploits in the early 1900s, Plainview clearly despises man and openly admits to a colleague that only he can be successful. Like Golum, the plain-speaking man has been corrupted by his greed, his “precious”.
Opposite this satanic figure is the godly pastor, Eli Sunday (Dano) who owns the lands over a lake of oil that Daniel wants. While initially berating his family for letting him into their quiet ecosystem, it also becomes clear that the simple pastor wants more than a cut of the funds; he longs for his church to be known to the world and be rich doing it. While not even out of his twenties, Paul acts like a veteran, truly throwing himself into his crazed character with apparently four days preparation after originally only playing a shorter role as Paul Sunday, a twin. Dano animatedly cajoles the sin out of people with his lively pastoral rhetoric and is a true acting equal in the film opposite Daniel.
Ironically, the ungodly Daniel and the pure pastor, Sunday, battle for the worship of Little Boston, the town in which the duel is set. Where one tries to trick the ignorant into selling their property for his greedy needs, the other is seen as a charlatan, a preacher who feigns healing abilities.
This is truly a brilliant piece of film, with only a slow pacing holding it back from being a bigger popular hit. I felt unsure about watching this film, mainly due to the topic of oil not being a particularly stimulating subject. This film is not really about the oil, however, but more of a character study in my opinion and a brilliant one at that. All of this culminates in one of the most memorable endings to a film.