There will be a bunch of viewers leaving the theater feeling enchanted by the Oscar winning performance of the lead actor and mesmerized by the cinematography of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s America. There will also be a bunch of viewers who find the film too long (160 minutes), the storyline too inconclusive, and the acting too intense. For all that is worth, “There Will Be Blood” is not meant to be released as a blockbuster though it has made it to the top 10 best films of 2007 by the critics.
You know what it is like to read a book from the good old days. The plot of this film has an old literature feel, which is not surprising as it is inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel, “Oil!” written in 1927. ‘Inspired’ is the keyword because the film only adapts the first half of the book. Imagine how long the film would be had it covered the entire book (320 minutes?!). In the defense of this rather inconclusive storyline, Paul Thomas Anderson did write the screenplay with Daniel Day-Lewis in mind as the lead actor. That probably explains why the entire film centers mostly on one single character, the silver miner turned oil man Daniel Plainview played by Day-Lewis.
I am a huge fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and love his roles in “The Last of the Mohicans”, “In the Name of the Father”, and “Gangs of New York”. His acting-in-character approach works well in “There Will Be Blood”. You can clearly see that he was not acting in the film but has rather become the character. It can be scary to watch because the main character Daniel Plainview is not necessarily the most likeable character in the film. The main character itself is complex. Daniel Plainview is the down-to-earth-get-your-hands-dirty kind of person who devotes his entire life in the pursuit of success. He takes in an orphan as his son and as a ‘business partner’ to enhance his image when dealing with the communities. He accumulates enough hatred along the way and does not hesitate to kill. He has no faith in religion but yet is forced to join a Christian community as part of a business deal.
In “There Will Be Blood”, you will see Daniel Day-Lewis drenched in oil, covered in mud and dirt, slapped on his face till his cheek turned red, and shouting with such an animalistic emotion till you see saliva dripping from his mouth. Gosh, there are only a handful of actors who are in his league. Plenty of memorable scenes in this film, I can certainly see why Daniel Day-Lewis has beaten George Clooney (“Michael Clayton”), Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd”), and Viggo Mortensen (“Eastern Promises”) for the Oscar title by a large margin (note: I have yet to watch Tommy Lee Jones’s “In the Valley of Elah”).
I can imagine one day in the distant future, I will watch this classic production again reciting some of the lines together with Day-Lewis (“I drink your milkshake!” or “I’m finished!”). Is “There Will Be Blood” suited for mass consumption? Probably not as I think it is a film to admire rather than a film to entertain.