The whole point behind this whole film: drinking milkshakes.
This tells the story of an oilman, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who goes into a small town to drill for oil. But, a local preacher, Eli (Paul Dano), tries to get a piece of his profits to expand his church, and Daniel doesn’t like that one bit and that’s what causes a whole bunch of problems between the two characters.
With The Master coming up closer and closer by the seconds that pass us by, I thought it would be a great idea to check-up on how P.T. Anderson‘s last flick still does after it shook up the whole, wide world 5 years ago. Needless to say, it still kicks some oil-loving ass.
The most notable element that stands behind Anderson and his skills as a director is how he is able to make anything look very beautiful, but also very dark and Gothic in it’s own weird way. The cinematography for this flick is beautiful as we get to see a lot of the long, wide landscapes that always find themselves, hidden somewhere in the background and give you a better idea that you are in fact watching a story that’s taking place during the early days of the “oil boom”. There’s a lot to gaze at here and there are plenty of memorable shots where Anderson just keeps the camera on one piece of action and never seems to move and it creates more and more tension as it goes along. But as beautiful as this film may be, there’s also plenty of darkness in it as well, mainly coming from the story.
One of the key elements behind this story that makes it work is just how progressively dark and strange things begin to get for everybody in this story. There is never a single moment in this flick where you feel like anything good is going to happen to these characters, which does make this seem like a bit of a downer in hindsight, but for some reason you never stop watching. Scene after scene is just as memorable as the last one as Anderson has a knack for making even the slightest bit of dialogue show just who a character really is and what their real motivations are underneath it all. It’s strange that a guy like this can do something so dark and depressing as this, but still have the chance to turn out a zany, wacky rom-com like Punch-Drunk Love, a flick that he did 5 years before this one but it also shows just how versatile of a writer/director this guy can be.
But without even going any further about this flick, I have to say that this also features one of the most epic and bizarre scores that I have ever heard before in my life. You would never, ever think that the words “Daniel Day-Lewis”, “Western”, and “Radiohead” would go in the same sentence, but somehow, someway, Anderson found a way to get them altogether and it makes a perfect match that seemed very weird to have in the first place. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, did this score all by himself and it’s very well-calculated in the ways that he makes certain types of noises fit in so well with whatever is going on on-screen. There’s always a great deal of tension and darkness in this film, and Greenwood’s score conveys that with a weird collision of strings and percussion that just add more to the dark and manic tone of the whole flick. One scene in particular, is when Plainview runs after a well of his that just burst and without any music whatsoever, it would have still been tense the whole way through, but not as tense with the power-heavy beat coming from Greenwood that continues to build and build-up until almost all hell breaks loose. It’s one of those rare scenes where everything just comes together so perfectly into one film and it’s one that should probably be played up to the highest level of volume you can get on your television.
Despite almost everything in this film coming together and gelling so perfectly, there was one problem with this flick that always seemed to get me even when I was going for the whole 10/10 aspect. The story is all about Plainview and how his whole descent into darkness makes him more evil and insane as the days go by but in my opinion, I never understood exactly as to why. We get that the guy doesn’t like people, doesn’t see the good in them, and just wants money so he can get as far away from them as he can, but why? Was there ever a moment in his life when the guy realized that his life was going to be surrounded by people that he hates or was he always just like this and the huge amounts of money he’s been raking in just made him feel it even worse now? I don’t know what it was and quite frankly, I don’t think P.T. did either. I think that this was just a character study about a guy that hated human-beings for no reason, and that was my problem with this flick: I needed the reason. Yeah, that’s right, this film would have been a 10/10 had it not been for this one, itty, bitty problem in the story.
But aside from this strange character foil, you can’t help but walk away satisfied after seeing one of the greatest performances in the past decade, given by one of the best off all-time: Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day has been known to be very selective with his roles, very weird with him about the limits he goes to with staying in method and in character, and to always walk away with an Oscar nomination or Oscar win. All of which is exactly what you get here with his performance as Daniel Plainview as I think it is probably the best he has ever given just by how much he puts into this role. Granted, this character already had a lot to work with when it came to the whole script, but Daniel Day takes that character one-step further in his own way. This guy is one evil son of a bitch that I don’t think does a single nice thing throughout the whole movie (I seriously don’t) but you can never, ever take your eyes off of him just because every scene of Plainview, is just another scene where Daniel Day does something different.
What I mean by something different is that there are these types of facial expressions that he has just to give his character a real feeling that is unlike you have ever seen in this character the whole flick. Essentially, this character could be written off as the usual, one-note, evil asshole that nobody cares to be around but there’s something more behind it all and Daniel Day keeps us watching and waiting for that throughout the whole film. If my whole description about this guy’s performance hasn’t already sold you yet on this perfect performance, than please, stop reading and go out there and watch this freakin’ movie and pay attention to every little thing that Daniel Day does with this character. To the weird limp, to the Jack Palance impersonation, to the open-handed slaps, to the evil looks he gives Eli, and to everything else he ever does in this movie, he does it with the utter grace and perfection that should always be shown off, especially when you’re working with a character such as this. Totally deserved that Oscar win.
Although this is Daniel Day’s show, through and through, Paul Dano doesn’t allow himself to get kicked out of the whole film. In fact, Dano has just as many intense and memorable scenes as Daniel Day, it’s just that every single one is with Daniel Day and it creates some of the best back-and-forth scenes I have seen in a long-ass time. Dano nails the whole crazy aspect that lies behind those certain preachers out there in the West, but he never necessarily over-does it and that’s what really surprised me about this character. Him and Daniel Day work perfectly together as you can tell that right from the start, they never really see eye-to-eye on anything and it’s only a matter of time until one of them finally has enough of it all and decides to break loose. That’s what ultimately leads up to one of the most abrupt, yet satisfying endings that I have seen in the past decade, and is definitely one to stick around for no matter how much the flick’s slow-pace may be pissing you off.
Consensus: There Will Be Blood may not make much sense of it’s story at the end, but will still keep you watching the screen the whole time with it’s out-standing performance by Daniel Day-Lewis (one of his best of all-time, if you can believe that), a strange score from Johnny Greenwood that actually goes along with the subject material very well, and a superb direction from Anderson that captures all of the beauty, and all of the horror that comes along with fame, money, and well, oil.