‘There Will Be Blood’: A Recommendation
There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, tracks the rise of Daniel Plainview — a ruthless oil prospector at the beginning of the 20th century. Today it is known for the legendary performance of Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his second Oscar for his portrayal of the ruthless oil prospector. Perhaps you may be more familiar with the famous line: “I drink your milkshake.”
There Will Be Blood is not an easy watch. Before an image is even shown, a string score attacks your ears immediately making you feel uncomfortable as it puts you on the edge of your seat. The film opens with eerie New Mexico Mountains. Paul Thomas Anderson is a director who loves long shots and There Will Be Blood is full of them. Despite being nearly 2 hours, the film features 678 shots in total, averaging more than 13 seconds a shot (Avengers: Endgame had 2,698 shots in total). Anderson holds these moments as he wants you to focus on his character’s faces, look as the fire licks at the sky, the churches and oil derricks.
For the first 20 minutes there is no dialogue. Just the sound of a pickaxe hitting rock, dynamite exploding in a mine’s walls and a tense score. The reason you keep watching is Daniel Day-Lewis’ incredible performance. The method actor is famous not just for his performances but his incredible preparation. From staying in a wheelchair throughout the production of My Left Foot and learning how to track and skin animals and fight with tomahawks for Last of the Mohicans to building his character’s house for The Crucible.
When you watch Plainview snap his ankle as he falls down a mineshaft in the stifling heat of New Mexico, you never understand what is exactly is going on. Until you see how he uses his newfound limp and thick moustache: to deliver compelling sales pitches to the people of Little Boston, California with skill that rivals that of the Wolf of Wall Street.
Plainview is a man so tightly wound and internally devious in his pursuit of wealth that it is easy to see him as a projection of inherent evil. However, this is only a surface level view of Plainview, who is evil at times simply to survive. His main adversary is the faith healer Eli Sunday (played by Paul Dano) who morally and philosophically wrestles with Plainview throughout the entirety of the film. This struggle is the point of There Will Be Blood. It is not a film about oil but about character. More importantly, the effect greed can have on a person’s character.
There Will Be Blood never provides any answers for the deep philosophical questions it raises which only makes it more powerful. By the time the credits roll you very well may be confused, shaken and unsure if you just wasted your time as you try to process what you just watched. But you will eventually find yourself asking, what do I value in life? How important is money to me? What am I prepared to do to get more of it?
Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday are not written to be likeable. They exist to remind us of what is important in life and to show us what the consequences of selfishness will bring. Will you be like Daniel Plainview, dedicating your life in the pursuit of wealth above all else to end up alone in a luxurious mansion that houses your demons? Or are you like Eli, hiding behind the veneer of morality to disguise your selfishness? Or will you choose to be your own person by surrounding yourself with people you love?
There Will Be Blood is not a film that is meant to be enjoyed but an experience like no other. Even if you get to the credits and feel like you’ve wasted your time, at least you can say you watched the “I drink your milkshake” movie.
Written by Xavier Fitzpatrick