Pick your medium: films, books, music, video games, art – those involved with these, for the large part, are in a particular moment in time, vying to make a memorable piece of work which will be commercially and (most importantly) critically successful. Most come and go without being noticed, a lot of other stuff is generic filler, but then you get the likes of There Will Be Blood.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis in phenomenal form, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this one is sighted by many critics as the greatest film of this century (so far). Paul Dano also puts in a riveting performance as the pious Eli, but this is a film about oil, sir. Oil! Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview is an oil baron Hellbent on making a fortune whatever the cost and getting away from scumbag people, so this is the best film ever about being a misanthrope. What an achievement it is, so we’re celebrating it – 10 years ago today, it hit the world.
There Will Be Blood
This is a tale of misanthropy and greed, simply put. Daniel Plainview is the oil man with a son, HW, whom he often uses as a bargaining chip (it’s debatable whether he even has much emotional attachment to him) to secure big business oil digging deals.
His sole purpose in life is to get very rich, put up with people whilst achieving this, and live out his days away from everyone, but this intemperate attitude twists and distorts his existence. Ultimately, by the time he’s achieved his goal, he’s jaded, belligerent, and a miserly grouch whose self-obsession has done nobody, not even himself, any favours.
The journey he takes to achieve all this is what makes the film so engrossing. From his early days as an amateur oil digger, to his wheeling and dealing for big money opportunities, Plainview puts on a captivating persona to secure his fortune. Paul Dano (only 23 at the time) puts in an incredible performance as the pious, antagonistic Eli Sunday – it’s his more sensible twin brother who comes to Plainview promising the deal of the century at the Eli Ranch, the farming family promising plenty of oil and a lot of moolah.
Once he hits gold, as you can see in the clip above, the power struggle between Daniel and Eli twists in Plainview’s favour, but medical issues with his son and the ongoing personal differences with Sunday lead the narrative on a destructively nihilistic path. Plainview’s worldview of humans becomes increasingly embittered, although it’s his narcissism and desire for wealth which, ironically, makes him a nightmare to be around. He is the problem, in other words, not the world around him.
In the famous ending (“I drink your milkshake!”), what he becomes is somewhat predictable – the mega-rich, miserly drunk presiding over a vast fortune but with nothing to do with it. Consequently, There Will Be Blood offers brooding sentiments on capitalism, plus it’s an exceptional film – Paul Thomas Anderson’s finest – with Daniel Day-Lewis’ every move a joy to watch in his most captivating performance. This is a masterpiece and one every movie buff has to see. Here’s celebrating 10 oily years, yo!
The film belongs to this man and his disturbing talent – whilst he’s notorious for his often infuriating (for other members of the production) method acting, when you get results like this audiences certainly won’t mind. He won an Oscar for the role, rightly so, and it surely cements his position as the best actor of his generation.
He’s noted in interviews he’s sure most people think he’s mad; he’s also said he finds it difficult to leave a character once production is over, such is his psychological investment in it. Stories abound of his disappearing into the woods for six months to prep for Last of the Mohicans, and refusing to break character in My Left Foot, which required the crew to lug him and his wheelchair about the set (and feed him).
Whatever you make of all this, he’s calling it a Daniel Day-Lewis on his career now he’s 60, although he’s done that before in order to move to Italy in the 1990s to work as a shoe repairman. It wouldn’t surprise us if he returned for future roles a decade down the line – for a creative bloke, to lose that would surely be TOO MUCH?! We shall see.