There Will Be Blood
It is impossible to describe There Will Be Blood in one word but if forced to, I would say powerful. If I had to further describe in using just single words they would be; politics, greed, religion and morality. It’s a true instant American classic film whose technical aspects far exceed that of most other films out there.
Nearly the first 15 minutes of the film, aside from a few cries and moans, is without dialog. All you hear is the eerie soundtrack which was done by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood. A soundtrack that would earn him a Grammy nomination. Greenwood creates a soundtrack that works so well with the film, it would not have been the same without it. Mixing up classical sounds and making them haunting. Something that would rival what Stanley Kubrick would have chosen.
Essentially, There Will Be Blood is about a ruthless oil man named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). He learns that there is a small town which has plenty of oil resources. He convinces the town to let him set up operation there and begin drilling. He promises the town to build schools and cultivate their land to make the town boom. However, one person in particular is reluctant, the local preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano).
Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday’s relationship begins early in the film. Having being tipped off from Eli’s twin brother, Plainview arrives at the family’s ranch in search of oil. However, Plainview being the kind of man he is he tries to get a bargain for the land by claiming he wants the land for quail hunting. Thus giving the family prices for quail land and not land with oil. Eli knows that there is oil on the land, something his father doesn’t seem to know. While Plainview is trying to pull a fast one on the family’s father, Eli steps in during negotiation.
After buying the Sunday ranch Plainview soon realizes that Eli is going to be a nuisance. Eli is constantly making sure that this oil venture that has quickly taking over the entire town is in the best interest of his church. Eli approaches Plainview asking if he can bless the first drilling, which Plainview abides to without hesitation. But as the time approaches for the blessing, Plainview does not call Eli up to speak. Instead he does his own blessing but doing so in a way that makes him and his business look like they there are doing a charitable thing for this town.
Which one could argue either side for. On one hand he is providing the town new opportunities for irrigation which in return would provide food easier. He is also building a road for the town and a new school. Part of the agreement was that he would also contribute money to the church that Eli wants so desperately. On the other hand, Plainview’s drilling does bring death to one of the man, via an accident on the dangerous job. It even leads his child to lose his hearing and be permanently deaf.
Shortly after the incident is really the first time you get an intimate look into Plainview’s personality when he says, “I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.” Also in the same conversation, “There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.” It is a very important scene because for the first time you see that he is self-aware that he has evil tendencies. He verbally admits of his hatred of people and that he has no room for compassion.
Plainview and his son are on a train when Plainview tells his son to stay put. He leaves the train with his son still on it. It was pre-arranged that another man takes the child. Plainview does this without any emotional tie with his boy. This becomes even more apparent in the next scene when he is in a meeting with a company looking to buy out his land. They tell him they will make him a millionaire if he chooses to sell. Plainview asks them, “What would I do then.” As if he does not know that there is anything else in life then work. They reply he could spend time when his boy, a reply that does not sit well with Plainview.
It is brought to his attention that there is one piece of land that has held out from the initial buying. This land is crucial to Plainview because it stands in the way of the pipeline he wants so that he can transport the oil. If he does not get this land, it’s a 50 mile detour that his pipeline would have to endure. That is just not feasible.
The land owner says he must wash in the blood of Jesus Christ and that’s the only way to salvation and the only way for him to get the land. Plainview tries to buy his way out offering him more and more money but the land owner wants him to be baptized. It is obvious Plainview does not care much for religion and even less for Eli Sunday, so this is no easy task for him.
The scene where Plainview attends Eli’s church is simply amazing. Eli knows exactly what Plainview is doing there and you can tell by the little smirk on his face that he is awaiting his chance for revenge and humiliation. Eli demands him to get down on his knees and scream out “I am a sinner” over and over. If that was not enough, he makes Plainview admit that he has abandoned his own child.
There Will Be Blood makes you question your own morality in the most chilling scene in the entire film towards the end when Plainview asks Eli Sunday to admit that he is a false prophet and that God is a superstition. Eli must choose between falsifying what he firmly believes in order to receive money for the church from Plainview. The film then comes full circle as Eli Sunday made a fool of Plainview earlier in the film when he makes Plainview scream “I am a sinner” many times in front of his congregation.
The irony in this is quite interesting, because Eli is in a catch-22, either way he loses, whether that will be money or faith. If he chooses not to falsify his belief then he won’t receive the money he wants to build a new church. On the contrary, saying so even though you may not mean what you say, brings self-guilt and shame. It begs the question, how much are you willing to sell your soul for? Or so to speak.
If you have seen the film, you know that ultimately it doesn’t matter what his choice is. This further perhaps expands the irony that there is no right answer. Plainview really has nothing to gain from this situation other than to get back at Eli and to humiliate him. Which for him is the only thing he cares about and nothing would bring him more satisfaction.
Paul Thomas Anderson typically uses two or more of the same actors in his films, however, There Will Be Blood is his first film that doesn’t include a member of the cast from a previous film. However, an element that is signature to PT Anderson that is present is his long takes of scenes. The film was shot beautifully which eventually earned an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
Daniel Day Lewis is fierce and relentless. Determined to be wealthy he will let nothing stop him. The first evidence of this is at the very beginning of the film where he falls down a mine shaft and breaks his leg. With determination on his side, he hauls himself back up from the mine. Once you see There Will Be Blood it should come to no surprise that Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for Best Leading Actor for his performance.
Paul Dano’s character Eli is marvelously haunting and extremely passionate. I got goose bumps when he preached to his congregation. He is just as determined and fierce as Plainview is but in his own way. He is not fueled by greed but instead it’s his religion which drives him.
There Will Be Blood combines superior acting, directing and storyline into a masterpiece. In my opinion a film that was robbed of it’s much deserved Academy Award for Best Picture. It should be considered an important American film that everyone should see, you would only be doing yourself a favor in doing so.