I now know for a fact that I can have set a very unrealistic precedent for the rest of PTA’s filmography, but I can’t really complain. There Will Be Blood is an unflinching exploration of modern capitalism, comprised of an ensemble of incredible actors and a gorgeous depiction of the American West, in which every single shot appreciates the emphasis on visual storytelling – the story of the self-proclaimed oil-man Daniel Plainview is an uncomfortable watch, but one that can’t help but captivate you for the entirety of its runtime, something that despite its magnitude, never manages to leave you any less than utterly mesmerised.
However, TWBB isn’t just a pretty film with fantastic performances and production design, because in its thematic elements, it is as rich and investing as can be. Essentially everything that unfolds throughout the film can be tied back to the ancient conflict between capitalism and Christianity, and particular how this affects our ‘protagonist’.
Daniel Day Lewis delivers one of the best performances I have ever seen: he is absolutely terrifying, treating every line of dialogue as if it’s his last and perpetually giving off an aura of emptiness and hysteria, utilising every necessary expression to do so. Lewis acts in harmony with Anderson’s direction to allow each scene to feel like it’s own universe, one that feels as if it goes on once the cameras shut off – however it is not just the enthralling performances that transcend you into this world, but it’s the meticulous choice of shooting locations, combined with the unbelievable set and costume design along with how unrelentingly immersive Robert Elswit’s cinematography is.
Not only does Paul Thomas Anderson direct the hell out of this film, but he writes the hell out of it too, with an extremely tightly written script full of endlessly insightful dialogue that ultimately acts as a playing ground for the abilities of Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano, among others, to flourish.
Within a single viewing, I can immediately appreciate why this film resonates with so many, and will be remembered in terms of cinema for decades to come.