When Paul Thomas Anderson makes movies, he really means it. As a modern day Kubrick, PTA picks the topics of his films carefully – he’s made only five films in twelve years – and invests himself fully into the subject matter.
Whether it’s porn “Boogie Nights,” gambling “Hard Eight” or the similarities between love and violence “Punch-Drunk Love,” Anderson is able to strike a chord with audiences and critics alike on account of his knack for detail and ability to inspire charismatic performances from all those involved.
Like his idol Robert Altman, he’s a guru at managing ensemble casts, having worked with and molded a handful of today’s most talented actors, from Mark Wahlberg to Philip Seymour Hoffman.
So what do you get when you combine an actor’s director with a performer whose presence on screen demands your attention at all times in Daniel Day Lewis? You get the explosion of cinematic brilliance that is “There Will Be Blood.”
Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil!,” “There Will be Blood” follows the exploits of a ruthless businessman named Daniel Plainview (played by Day-Lewis), whose seething corruption during turn-of-the-century America is as plain as his name. Greed is Anderson’s focus in this one, and there is no better time and place to examine it than Bush’s America in 2008.
After stumbling upon oil while mining silver in the west, Plainview’s obsessive quest begins and is traced over a span of more than 20 years as he raises a child (played by youngster Dillon Freasier), makes a butt-load of money and builds his very own Xanadu palace.
A self-proclaimed nihilist, the only thing that stands between Plainview and his merciless campaign is a lack of places to drill and a feverish preacher played by Paul Dano.
As Eli Sunday, Dano shrieks his way into cinematic history, playing the part with such intensity that it may cause you to examine your own demons by film’s end.
Whether or not Eli’s methods work on Plainview is a different story. The mind-bending conclusion will leave you bewildered as any and all notions of redemption are put into question by Plainview’s insane greed and Sunday’s shocking confession.
Anderson and Day-Lewis together form a lethal duo, and it’s fun to see Anderson pool nearly all of his energy into one actor as opposed to the standard twelve, although Dano’s manic performance makes me think that he got his fair share of love as well.
“There Will be Blood” truly is the only film of its kind, brilliantly different in a way that only Anderson could pull off. With all the talk about Day-Lewis’ performance, it’s easy to overlook the unique and daring filmmaker who was responsible for pulling the strings and evoking such a masterful act. Well, I may not be the first, but allow me to give credit where it’s due.
Along with Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky, Anderson is the future of American cinema, and as long as he continues to come out with inspired movies such as this, it’s safe to say that he holds the throne in that category.
My advice to you is to see this movie, let it sink in for a day or two and then acknowledge it for the exceptional and thought-provoking film it is. Give Anderson the Oscar. I’m finished.
Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.