Give The Gents A Hand: There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis gives one of the all time great performances as a soulless oil tycoon in the masterpiece There will be Blood.

Starring Daniel Day Lewis
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Distributed by Miramax Films
158 minutes

Sitting in the darkness of the movie theater many thoughts go through my head.   If the film is terrible, you’ll often find me shifting in my seat, stuffing my face with popcorn or yearning for the damn thing to be over so I can go to the bathroom.   But then every now and then, a film comes along that so mesmerizes me that I sit completely still, my eyes glued to the screen in fascination.   Any Almodovar film usually does that for me, as did Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 Masterpiece There Will Be Blood.

I’ve always respected Daniel Day Lewis as an actor, but the fact that there are often gaps of several years in between his film roles meant before There Will Be Blood, for me Lewis wasn’t much more than John Proctor to Wionna Ryder’s Abigail Williams in the so-so adaptation of The Crucible (1996).   After seeing his performance as Daniel Plainview, of course, all of that has changed.

From the moment he first appears onscreen you understand Daniel Plainview is man with a singular goal; to attain as much money and power as possible.   While Daniel understands it’s not possible to build an oil empire on his own, he despises the fact it means that he must develop relationships with other people.

Much of Lewis’s brilliance lies in the way Daniel can exploit society’s desire for family and community in one scene and then rag on it all in the next.   “I look at people and I see nothing worth liking” Daniel tells his maybe brother in a rare moment of openness.

Only one person comes close to making Daniel have real affection for him, his adopted son H.W. (Dillion Freasier).   Daniel claims he only ever adopted H.W to have a cute face around to distract potential clients and so when H.W has an accident that causes him to go deaf, Daniel quickly ships him off to a boarding school.

The depressed and handicapped pre-teen is no longer of any use to him, yet in one chilling scene, the town minister Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) forces Daniel to admit that he regrets abandoning his son.   This scene alone shows why Lewis was so deserving of the best actor Oscar that year.

As an audience member you despise Daniel and yet you can’t help but be fascinated by his ruthlessness.   While you may hope for his redemption, Daniel never has an Ebenezer Scrooge moment of enlightenment.

Instead of telling his son he loves him, it seems Daniel resents H.W for ever making him care for him. The grown H.W finally has to admit to himself that his father will never put his needs and desires over that of the business.

There are many admirable things about There will be Blood, the score for instance in my opinion is one of the best film scores of the 00’s.   The script’s slow and methodical pace is an interesting take on the story of a man building his empire.

But when it comes right down to it, this film wouldn’t be what it is without the brilliance of Daniel Day Lewis.   Lewis so grabs your attention that all the other actors seem completely forgettable compared to his intense and murderous energy. I am convinced that for many years to come, young actors will use this film as a case study for their craft. My hope is that Lewis will stop waiting so long in between projects so that there will be many more tour de force performances for this film critic to gush about in the future.

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