There Will Be Blood: Special Collector’s Edition
April 17, 2008
After the highly unconventional romantic comedy, Punch-Drunk Love (2002), many speculated about what writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson would do next. In a bold move, he decided to adapt Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil! about ambitious oil tycoons in California at the turn of the 20th century. Anderson eschewed casting any of his regular collaborators in favour of coaxing Daniel Day-Lewis out of semi-retirement to portray a larger-than-life oil man. The gamble paid off as There Will Be Blood (2007) became a critical darling and earned Day-Lewis almost every acting award in existence, including the Academy Award.
We meet Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) in 1898 plying his trade: digging for silver and gold in an impressive, dialogue-free 14-minute introduction that culminates in him discovering oil. It’s a fantastic marriage of physical acting and visual storytelling as we see how oil is drilled and recovered and how dangerous the process is as one of Plainview’s workers is killed. The oil man ends up adopting the man’s son (Freasier). Plainview is a hands-on man not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty digging for oil.
He’s also a slick salesman adept at convincing dirt poor families to sell him their land cheap and making a tidy profit in return. While in the process of looking for his next opportunity for oil, Plainview meets Paul Sunday (Dano), a young man from a strict, religious family in California, who tells him of a rich amount of oil located on his family’s farm in Little Boston. Plainview tries to swindle the Sunday family but their other son, Eli (Dano), is a shrewd customer in his own right. He agrees to sell Plainview his family’s land if the oil man gives him enough money to build his own church. This sets the stage for a long-standing conflict between Plainview and his greed for oil, and Eli and his religious fanaticism.
Daniel Day-Lewis brings his customary ferocious intensity to the role of an opportunistic oil tycoon. The only thing Plainview cares about is making as much money as he can and he doesn’t care whom he screws over in the process. Day-Lewis affects a bit of a John Huston-type persona and his take on Plainview is meant to foreshadow the greedy capitalists that continue to screw countries out of their resources today. The actor is unafraid to play an unabashed misanthrope whose greed eventually gives way to madness.
In contrast, Paul Dano plays a much quieter, seemingly benign character. That is, until he preaches his fire and brimstone sermons that are as much of an act as Plainview’s glad-hand sales pitches. He proves to be a fairly formidable antagonist for Plainview. Anderson shows each of them in their element, each giving their own riveting performance to the simple townsfolk as they try to exert their influence over them.
At times, the stunning landscape shots of the harsh California environment evoke Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978) – especially a particularly memorable sunset shot. Anderson stages some truly impressive sequences, chief among them the explosion of an oil derrick and Plainview’s desperate attempt to rescue his son and quell the subsequent fire. The scene ends with a scary shot of Plainview’s oil-drenched face gazing in awe at the geyser of oil spewing out while Jonny Greenwood’s excellent unconventional score sets a nightmarish tone.
Some critics have drawn parallels between Plainview’s obsession for oil and the current United States government’s fixation with oil. It is certainly an apt analogy as the oil man’s blatant disregard for collateral damage mirrors the government’s own disregard for civilian deaths in the wake of the Iraq War. There Will Be Blood is really a story about how our country was built – with hard work, sweat, and, yes, blood. Anderson has crafted a cinematic masterpiece that pits the beginnings of corporate greed against religious extremism with a deliciously over-the-top performance by Day-Lewis at its centre. Like David Fincher did with Zodiac (2007), Anderson has reinvented himself with There Will Be Blood and hints a new possible direction for his career to go.
“15 Minutes” is a montage of vintage photographs, maps, and film from the period that the story of the film takes place juxtaposed with footage from the film to show how authentic it is all scored to Greenwood’s music. These pictures show buildings, cars, clothing, and so on from this period.
Also included are teaser and theatrical trailers.
There are two deleted scenes, one with Plainview dealing with a collapsed oil well that imparts an interesting bit about the process of remedying the situation. Another one features Plainview getting a haircut from his son.
“Dailies Gone Wild” is an outtake of Plainview having a meal with his son.
Finally, there is “The Story of Petroleum,” a promotional film made in 1923 by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and Sinclair Oil Company that shows oil exploration, extraction, and processing providing the nuts and bolts of what Plainview’s character does in the film.