By Fred Topel | Image property of Paramount Vantage.
There Will Be Blood
It's Magnoilia. Instead of a wide ensemble of characters, There Will Be Blood presents all the complications of the early oil business. I didn't connect with it emotionally like Boogie Nights or Magnolia, but it is a respectable portrayal of an epic era.
Review: There Will Be Blood
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) builds his oil business from the ground up, buying land and running drill teams. He runs into conflict with preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) and sees his own family torn apart by his relentless pursuits.
For such an epic history, There Will Be Blood is pretty straightforward. It's easy to follow and holds one's interest as information. He hustled land for oil and just became the best in the business.
The performances are big. Plainview plays to whatever audience he needs to, until he gets so big that he just devours everything in his path. Eli goes from milk and meek to passionate sermonizing. It may be a performance piece, but at least the characters are smart too. They don't just exist to be the performance.
The spectacle of oil drilling will make There Will Be Blood the home theater demo DVD of next year. All the rumbles of oil sprays will kick a subwoofer's ass, not to mention all the dripping drops of oil in 5.1 surround.
The high stakes of the action make the first half of the movie tense. All of the oil work is depicted visually and we understand what they're doing. It's violent and dangerous too so we get it when Plainview talks about how difficult drilling is.
It gets really good and heated, then diverges tangentially for most of the second half of the film. I'm sure this is faithful to the book, and even more faithful to real life, but that's where it lost me. Plainview even sits and says what he's thinking at one point.
The real problem is that we're away from Eli for too long. Once the conflict between money and religion comes to a head, there are only two meaty payoffs in the whole rest of the movie. There is some fun big nastiness to come, but a lot more wallowing while you wait.
Plenty of movies fall in love with themselves way worse than There Will Be Blood. This film definitely delivers for the audience. I wish there were a way to convey what they were trying to do more concisely, but hey, it's awards season.