There Will Be Blood

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From the start, There Will Be Blood instils expectation. The opening fifteen minutes set a truly epic and remarkable stage: without dialogue, lone oil prospector Daniel Day-Lewis toils ceaselessly in the depths of a forbidding mineshaft against a tense and uneasy orchestral score. It is intense and gripping, and augurs for an ambitious film. Ambition can be a dangerous thing for a filmmaker, and director/ producer Paul Thomas Anderson certainly stakes his intentions from the off – but this is what we have come to expect from the director who brought us Boogie Nights and Magnolia and he does not disappoint. Inspired by Utpon Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, There Will Be Blood begins in 1898 and follows the fortunes of oil prospector Daniel Plainview, played by the masterly Day-Lewis. It is a story of dark ambition: the ugly side of the American ideals of independence, entrepreneurship and competition. Its themes are not original. It depicts the terrifying greed of man and the conflict between America’s two masters – pursuit of money and religion – in its 20th century infancy. Yet Anderson has dealt with them deftly. The film is rich with symbolism and powerfully fueled by the deviance of Plainview. Day-Lewis is utterly mesmerising and absorbing in a performance that will assuredly win him his second Oscar. Anderson places him in nearly every shot, and such an intimacy would seem a brave move from the five-times Academy Award nominated filmmaker were it not for the alluring presence and performance of Day-Lewis. He has perfectly captured the disturbing nature of Plainview. It is that of a character whose conscience has long since been consumed by ambition and hate; a desire to dominate his fellow man. Yet for such a disturbing character, Day- Lewis’ charisma and voice are bewitching, delivering an ultimately moving performance. While Day-Lewis is undoubtedly the pivot on which the success of this film turns, Paul Dano provides admirable support as the unnerving preacher Eli Sunday, Plainview’s adversary. Anderson has an audacious eye for the visual. He aptly combines the panoramic with the close-up and his command of colour and imagery is excellent. The destruction of the oil derrick as a sequence is simply enchanting. The menacing score comes courtesy of Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame, and is a perfect complement to the dark soul of the film. There Will Be Blood is a film with distinctiveness and grand intentions, but it is also a movie that has not shied away from the edge. Ambition can be a dangerous thing, but for Anderson and Day-Lewis it is this that sets them free to create a thrilling, potent and exceptional film. By Christopher Jackson

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