There Will Be Blood – Review (Spoiler Free)

There Will Be Blood PosterOil, blood and religion uneasily mix together to create a dark and brooding masterpiece.


It took time for me to come around to this film, but now that I have I’ll hesitatingly label it an essential movie, a future classic. I’ve been a big Anderson fan for some time but I first only appreciated this one as a technical marvel to experience, preferring the tone of Boogie Nights, the slightly crazy brilliance of Magnolia… Now however I can say that There Will Be Blood poses a serious challenge to Magnolia as being Anderson’s best work, not just because of Day Lewis’ thunderous performance, but because the film around him crackles with an intensity and drive that few modern films can rival.

Lets start with Daniel Day Lewis. There is no doubt that his performance here deserved to win the Academy Award that year. His portrayal of Daniel Plainview utterly commands the screen; his presence is so great that it’s sometimes hard to remember that there is anyone else in the film, especially so as I’m pretty sure he appears in every scene of the movie. But of course there are others here, the most notable being Paul Dano whose performance as a enthusiastic priest I actually enjoyed, although I am aware that many people accused him of overacting and not being a powerful enough rival to Day Lewis’ Plainview. I disagree, the movie is essentially about the clash of the two men’s personalities and ideologies and Day Lewis’ meticulous approach, his towering performance wouldn’t work if it is matched against something similar. The film needs Dano’s quieter (mostly) and looser acting approach in order for there to be real conflict.

therewilbebloodThere is very little to criticise about the look and sound of the film too. Visually it is magnificent at times, particularly during the film’s big set piece, a scene which also provides a fantastic example of the movie’s score fully coming into play and filling you with a primal sense of dread and anticipation. Greenwood’s work here is kinetic and one of the best we have heard for years. It takes every scene of fear, dread and vulnerability and ramps up their power considerably. Frankly the movie just wouldn’t be half as powerful without it.

Ebert says in his review that There Will Be Blood exceeds its reach, a statement which I completely disagree with. It strikes me too as  ‘the kind of film that is easily called great’ but I believe that it actually manages to achieve that greatness which it so easily acquires the label of.  The ‘unbending characters’ are crucial to the story’s narrative drive, and we witness the strain which that has upon the characters, the film and upon us as an audience.  Plainview and Dano’s Eli may not twist and turn through multiple emotional narratives, but theirs is excellently set up and maintained throughout. I also have to respond to Ebert suggesting that the film’s ending goes beyond its own reach; it has the same kind of ending as Magnolia‘s. One which resists the expected and formulaic endings which we are so used to seeing, instead perfectly closing the movie in the most organic way that best serves the film. There Will Be Blood may not be your average movie, it is long, intense and often fairly relentless – and that is exactly why you have to see it. It’s an essential movie.

Summary:

What is the film’s greatest strength? Tough call but I’ll have to go with Day-Lewis. That opening deserves a shout out too though!

Its greatest weakness? Does it have to be quite so long?

Would I see it again? Absolutely. It seems very likely to impress me even more upon another rewatch.

Let your thoughts flow in the comment box below!

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34 comments

  1. A little bit ashamed to admit but I couldn’t finish this. I love Boogie Nights and Magnolia and I really wanted to love this too but it just dragged, I mean agonisingly slow at times. Im a big fan of PTA and his filmmaking style and normally have no issues with slow burners. DDL was magnificent but even he couldn’t keep me going. Some day I’ll sit down and rewatch

    1. Oh no! I can understand why though, even if I didn’t find that to be the case with this one.
      All I know is that rewatching this one helped me appreciate it much more than the first time around.

      Glad to hear that you’re a fan of Magnolia and Boogie Nights!

  2. Nice review. Like you this is my second favorite PTA movie after Magnolia. It’s a flawless picture in my opinion and Daniel Day Lewis’s performance is outstanding. I’m really excited for Inherent Vice.

    1. Cheers buddy. Glad to hear that you are also a big fan of Magnolia! Do you have a specific reason why you prefer that one over TWBB?
      So am I, I rank P.T. Anderson, the Coens and Spike Jonze amongst the most exciting people working today and I eagerly anticipate whatever they next put out!

  3. All Time Top Films · · Reply

    what a film. Defiantly one of my favourites. I love every scene, particularly the ending. I mean just so intense and so so satisfying. Great review!

    1. Thank you!
      Yeah there are so many great scenes in this one, and the last one as you say is one of the best. The flaming tower is another really great one.

      1. All Time Top Films · · Reply

        oh yh man this film is more an experience at some points. Just great acting and great visuals, so immersive!

        1. Yeah it certainly is! Have you seen any other of P.T. Anderson’s works?

          1. All Time Top Films · ·

            oh yh like pretty much all of them except magnolia

          2. Cool, although I will defend Magnolia to the death! It’s in my top ten films of all time!

          3. All Time Top Films · ·

            I heard it was one of his best but I really do love there will be blood. I’ll have to watch it soon

          4. Yeah let me know how you get on with it!

  4. Probably one of the most memorable scores in any film I’ve seen. It was like another character.

    1. Yeah it is such a powerful presence isn’t it!

  5. This movie’s great. And DDL is perfect in it. Hardly ever a false note in his performance one bit. Good review Rumsey.

    1. Thanks, it’s certainly a fantastic performance and movie!

  6. I’m not as smitten with PTA’s work like others but I think this is a near masterpiece. Day-Lewis is mesmerizing. Pure brilliance.

    1. Great to hear that you agree on this one! Also I can understand not being totally smitten with his work, I wasn’t a massive fan of The Master if I’m honest, although I should rewatch it soon to be fair to the film.

  7. Like a commenter above, I also didn’t finish watching this but not because I didn’t like it, I was totally into it, but my disc had a scratch and I never got around to finding another copy. I also thought Dano’s performance was a good counterpoint to Lewis’s. Great review!

    1. Cheers! Oh you need to get yourself another copy!!

  8. I agree that its a modern classic. My favourite Anderson film. Day-Lewis is immense in it. Great review

    1. Thank you, it’s my second favourite of his. Have you seen Magnolia?

  9. Great review, James. I absolutely love TWBB and consider it a masterpiece. Totally agree on the DDL vs Dano war we see in this movie. I actually quite like Paul in that role but Day-Lewis is perfection in this. My favorite performance on film.

    1. Thank you! It really is, I was very hesitant to put down the word masterpiece at first but it really deserves the title!

      1. I remember being in complete awe of it when I saw it at the theater.

        1. I would love to see this in theatres! I can’t imagine how electric some of those scenes must have been on the big screen!

          1. They absolutely were!

  10. Awesome review man, you know the first time I watched this the film had the unfortunate luck of me reviewing it right after, and me not being entirely impressed with it. I was very much put off with not just the length but how grandiose it seemed to try to be. But I will have to really put my foot in my mouth here, because the more I reflect on it the more it’s brilliance really does shine. I am not sure if I can sit through it all again but I do appreciate it much more now than I first did, and it really is a movie that deserved a better (read: less emotional) review from me! 🙂

    1. Haha I get that entirely as I had a much more negative first reaction too!
      I know you said that your not sure of you can sit through it agin but perhaps in a while do try, it really really benefits from a second watch!

  11. I love this film and all, yet for some reason I always say No Country for Old Men was the better film of that year. This is a film that will definitely be looked back on in the years to come though.

    1. Hmm well I would agree that they are both excellent films and I would be hard pushed to choose between them… I would certainly rather sit down to watch No Country on an evening… but I’m not sure which I would say is best.

      You know they were filmed in the same area? To the point that the plume of smoke from TWBB stopped a day’s shoot on NCFM!

      1. Pretty neat! I had no idea about that.

        1. Yeah it’s a fun fact!

  12. […] Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings  reviews the stunning There Will Be Blood. [THERE WILL BE BLOOD – REVIEW (SPOILER FREE)] […]

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