A review of “There Will Be Blood” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: R for extreme violence and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 38 minutes

 

 

Paul Thomas Anderson plays true to form in this raw, original work loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s sprawling 1927 novel “Oil!”

Plumbing cinematic riches is nothing new to Anderson, who has helmed such memorable and resonant fare as “Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia” and “Punch-Drunk Love”.

Daniel Day-Lewis, and only Day-Lewis, possesses the essential gravitas to pull off what is sure to be an award-winning turn as Daniel Plainview, a wily, sociopathic wildcatter in turn of the century west. As a crude oil hustler Plainview travels town to town plundering the land for the rich black pitch that will ultimately make him a millionaire.

Plainview pins big hopes on Sunday Ranch, a parcel of parched land that can be had for $6 an acre by virtue of a cunning snow job on the Sundays themselves, not to mention an entire community of skeptics and Sunday’s Christian sermonizing son Eli (Paul Dano).

The townsfolk ultimately rally round the plan, hoping for a giant strike that will see them rolling in dough. But raping the land reaps its own kind of hell.

With Day-Lewis as his muse Anderson wanders uncharted territory – from a brutal job-site accident that leaves Plainview’s young son permanently impaired to a vicious tête-á-tête between heretic madman and zealous pulpit preacher.

Industry clashes with religion with impudent greed, jockeying for the figurative top rung. Ignoring the obvious abundance of narrative fertile ground Anderson lays on a moody, discordant score (by hipster musician Jonny Greenwood) that’s so perversely mismatched it fits.

Despite a brilliant track record Day-Lewis’ performance is still a revelation – contemptuous, seething and fraught with the low-level hum of excruciating tension. Endeavoring to shed a dark past he meticulously destroys those who carelessly get close. Dano mans up to the daunting task of portraying a nemesis both frail and fierce, one of those characteristics triumphing in a shamefully cruel climax.

Visceral, volatile and epic.