The Modern Classics: There Will Be Blood

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The best film about oil.

There Will be Blood is a masterpiece and genuinely could be in the running as one of the technically ‘best’ films that I have ever seen. There are so few films that do get every aspect of the filmmaking so right. There is phenomenal acting, a memorable script, great music, great cinematography, engaging editing and stellar production and costume design – amongst other things.

It is that good, and I would even recommend it from a technical standpoint first and foremost. It is old fashioned yet bold filmmaking that doesn’t feel like it fits in the era of big robots and the Hulk. I’m going to try to convince you to give it a shot and to see it as soon as possible.

The film focuses on a myriad of themes from family virtues, to power and corruption, all the way to religion. And, it does so through the lens of the endeavours of a 20th-century oilman who seems to be a bit spiteful.

The plot creates some intriguing tensions and narrative directions, but it is more of a character study than a narrative feature. You are here to be with the protagonist (or in this case, antagonist) until the end and see how he transforms over time.

And what a character to study.

Daniel Plainview may be one of my all-time favourite characters in cinema. He is just pure brilliance to watch. Whether he is trying to manipulate a poor farmer to sell his land, discussing his opinion on the ‘people’ in this world, talking to his child or getting hammered, he is riveting and frankly sells the movie.

Of course, an actor is always behind the character. Daniel Day-Lewis is the only actor to have won 3 leading man Oscars ever, and it’s pretty easy to see why. He is just exceptional. I could rant to you about why his performance in this film is one of the best performances of all time, but it’s hard to put into words. It is hard to believe it is possible. How can an Irishman do that accent so well? Not only does he change his accent, but he changes everything. The way he walks stands, annunciates – it’s ridiculous. It needs to be watched to be believed.

But as I said before the acting is all pretty amazing. Every actor embodies their role, and it just creates such a consistent experience. Paul Dano is another highlight in this film, and the fact that he didn’t get nominated for an Oscar is a sin – he made me see religion in a different light.

The music in this film is also noticeably brilliant, and I think it stands out amongst most traditional and straightforward film scores. It gives the film an energy and lights up some scenes. A sequence involving an oil derrick and some running is a particular standout and instantly put a smile on my face (really don’t want to spoil it, so I’m going to leave it at that). Johnny Greenwood, the lead guitarist of Radiohead, designed the score for this film and I think he does a good job. It is a bit tragic that he never got a nomination for his work here because I believe it is one of the standout scores of the decade. He did get a nomination for his work on the phenomenal Phantom Thread (also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson), so that is good. Anyway, a bit of detour… the score has some great tracks to add to your ‘Film Score Revision Playlist’ and would recommend Radiohead in general.

Now, if you are really into piecing a film’s themes together after a film’s end, then this one is also perfect for you. Anderson had a vision for this character and world, and you feel it. It is so painstakingly detailed that you can’t help but believe that every interaction has some meaning. But even if you aren’t into analysing every frame of this film to find every ounce of significance, there is so much on the surface to appreciate and analyse, that this film feels so fulfilling. There are so many brilliant discussions to be had on the power of religion, greed, parenthood, evil, money and revenge. It is ingenious. The theories you can read about online are a fascinating read as well – would recommend.

My last big point on the album is the script and, specifically, the monologues. This film has some stellar passages of brilliant writing. Whether it is the marvellous sequence with Dano and Day-Lewis in a church, or the opening sales pitch to the people of a small town ripe with oil, the brilliant “I see the worst in people” speech, or the now-famous “I drink your milkshake” speech. This film has way too many memorable moments. It is a gold mine for stellar writing, and the fact that it is just delivered so masterfully adds to the magic.

But with all this said, this film isn’t necessarily an ‘easy’ watch. It is 2hrs and 40 minutes and does sometimes take it’s time to set up conflicts and payoffs. It is methodical, and there are a few scenes in which you feel the quiet before the storm.

However, the storms do come; they are glorious and plentiful. It is truly magnificent when all hell breaks loose, and you are left to wallow in the intensity. There are some euphoric moments laced throughout this film, and they have etched themselves into my memory – and I have a horrible memory.

Overall, this film is an experience. It is no wonder that when this film released in 2007, every film fanatic lost their minds. It is rare to find a movie so well made, so polished and so fucking captivating – maybe No Country for Old Men which kind of deserved the best film, Oscar, that year…

It isn’t a ‘switch your brain off kind of movie’, but I think that it will surprise you when you start it and when it is finished, you will sit there stunned into silence with the feeling that you have watched some phenomenal cinema. With all the crap in the world now, we all need some phenomenal cinema to give us a bit of hope that there are people out there who give a shit about something they love. At least I do anyway.

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