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There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Greed. There Will Be Vengeance 

Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson 
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds  
An image from There Will Be Blood

The greatest acting performance of all time? Some, like myself, would say that’s the case. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s American epic There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis spares no effort in reminding us that he’s one of the best to ever do it with his role as Daniel Plainview – a cut-throat oil prospector with a truly poisonous capitalistic greed.

Roughly based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood follows Plainview and his son’s journey through the California oil boom in the early 20th century. However, Plainview’s ruthless expansionism soon has him clash heads with local community leader and preacher Eli Sunday, brilliantly delivered by Paul Dano. And as impossible a task it may seem, Dano actually manages to hold his own against the acting titan that is Day-Lewis, resulting an absolutely unforgettable screenplay dynamic that will have you looking up scenes to rewatch on YouTube for months after viewing.

Dark, psychological, awfully poignant at times, and a brutal commentary on capitalism, this is a film that has rightfully earned its spot as the poster child for the mini golden age of 2007-2009 Hollywood. A masterpiece of cinema and acting, Paul Thomas Anderson has given us one of the greatest films of the 21st century. He’s drunk your milkshake. This is not one to be missed.

Sebastian Smith

A film such as There Will Be Blood can easily be dealt with by focusing on its impressive parts: Daniel Day-Lewis’ Academy Award winning performance as Daniel Plainview, the very epitome of the self-made man, wunderkind director Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing in his first film for five years and the film’s epic scope and length. But each of the film’s parts, impressive as there are, are only parts, the film’s real strength lies in the phenomenal whole.

There Will Be Blood is not an easy film to watch and there will be many who can find no value in it. Instead of trying to dumb down the sprawling novel “Oil!” of which Anderson adapted the screenplay, he embraces its challenging nature, opening the film with fifteen minutes of dialogue-free action. The effect of this sparseness of talking allows the film to develop not as an examination of the interaction between characters but as the study of one character, Plainview. When he does speak, every word is carefully chosen, and the richness of Day-Lewis’ voice allows Plainview to hypnotise those around him to get what he wants.

That is Plainview’s sole motivation, personal gain, and he stops at nothing to achieve it. The most notable obstacle in his path is Eli Sunday, played by Little Miss Sunshine’s Paul Dano. In any other film Dano’s portrayal of the manipulative, obsessive, deluded preacher would have been the stand out performance. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for us, he is opposite Day-Lewis, from whom Plainview comes alive through his madly electric eyes and violent deliberation. Tough Competition.

Anderson’s style mimics Plainview in the way he allows the film to seem natural and believable, while keeping a simmering menace which can, and sometimes does, explode with brutality. Ironically there is not much blood in the film, but the volatile moments are greatly heightened by the menacing tone the film keeps up.

The tone which drives There Will Be Blood does not follow the conventional narrative of cause and effect, instead often makes great leaps forward in time, but the picture it paints is a tonal landscape. Assisted by Jonny Greenwood’s discordant score it evokes a feeling to a degree unmatched by many of today’s films, even independent productions. It is, however, a thinker, and the true greatness of There Will Be Blood may not hit you until you are telling others about it, as I am doing, and it will make you want to see it all over again, as I now do.

Peter Lefort

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)
2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)
2022/2023 Spring Term (35mm)