widescreen – The brilliance of Blood


I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed, confesses self-made oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) to his half-brother Henry (Kevin J. OConnor).

I hate most people. At times, I look at people and see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money to get away from everyone.

Those misanthropic sentiments are key to comprehending the character of Plainview, a man driven by greed to the point where he eventually descends into his own personal madness. Plainview is as tough and slick as the oil that springs from his fields, and he does whatever it takes to achieve his means.

There is, however, a trace of tenderness and humanity in Plainview, allowing us to have some sympathy for him. But for the most part, hes a calculating, monstrous, bullying figure. A man who knows no God, save for the black gold that gushes forth from the California ground.

Plainview is the centerpiece of Paul Thomas Andersons magnificent There Will Be Blood, but he isnt the only driving force. The oil tycoon is flanked on one side by a young son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), whom he uses to humanize himself to the families whose land he buys up. On the other side is Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a young evangelical preacher with dreams of leading his own flock to salvation.

Eli, whose family Plainview bilks, becomes an unlikely nemesis for the oilman and each has his moments of comeuppance. Their conflict is both personal and professional, and it burns like an out-of-control oil blaze at the core of Andersons movie.

Although it runs 2 1/2 hours, Blood differs from Andersons earlier films, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, with its swift, lean narrative that just may win him an Oscar. The use of the score, a contemporary composition by Jonny Greenwood, generates the same raw, emotive power that Stanley Kubrick tapped from the music in his movies.

Day-Lewis, who brings a ferocious yet measured charge to Plainview, will almost certainly win an Oscar.

Dano, having previously made a mark as the willfully silent son in Little Miss Sunshine, imbues Eli Sunday with religious fury.

The movie trades in greed but also in betrayals of commerce, of personal beliefs and of the soul. Its all clarified by Anderson in one final action that allows Blood to live up to its title and claim its own stake as a new American masterpiece.

Contact the writer at rshulman@metroweekly.com