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When Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) proclaims, “Ladies and gentleman, if I say I’m an oil man you will agree,” you quite simply can’t do anything other than agree. That’s the kind of man Plainview is – the kind you just don’t disagree with, mainly out of fear. Plainview speaks calmly, deliberately, and with an air of confidence that seems almost too rehearsed, yet people still trust him, confide in him and look up to him. After all, Daniel Plainview is a prospector – of gold, silver, oil, or any other precious material – and his only goal in life is to make as much money as possible and hoard it as greedily as he can. This isn’t the type of man that makes a good father (he has a small son named H.W.), a trustworthy associate, or a dependable businessman, and yet, these are the primary concerns of Plainview’s life. It should come as no surprise, then, that P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a ticking time bomb of destruction, madness, and the darkest shade of human nature you’re ever likely to see.
The film opens, rather silently, with Plainview alone, secluded, and in a giant hole searching for gold. Looking back, this moment is eerily indicative of what the rest of his life will become. In an effort to extract the gold he finds, Plainview breaks his leg and endures a world of pain for the wealth and personal gain he achieves from the ordeal. He later loses a co-worker in a freak accident, and there’s no emotion or sorrow from Daniel, because what truly matters is the payoff, and if that’s intact, dead workers can always be replaced. There's no emotion, no regard for other people, no remorse, no kindness, and no generosity -- there's only money and oil, and to Daniel, they're one and the same.
Once Daniel turns his attention from gold and silver to oil, he’s almost immediately confronted by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), a young man who’s got some extremely valuable information that, of course, can be had for the right price. Naturally, Daniel swindles Paul and the information turns out to be much more than he could’ve anticipated: a whole ocean of oil that only he can get to. As he methodically takes over the Sunday ranch and sets up his oiling machinery whilst imposing his will on all who cross his path, only one man rises to meet the challenge of Daniel Plainview – Eli Sunday, twin brother of Paul and preacher of the Church of the Third Revelation. What follows is a gigantic clash of two men, both with extremely flawed ideologies but both unwilling, at least until the direst of circumstances, to yield to the other. The film spans a number of decades and as time passes, bitterness only festers and the notions of greed, power, lust and hypocrisy only grow stronger, all the while leading us to an unforgettable conclusion.
There’s no doubt that Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is the biggest strength of There Will Be Blood, but that’s not a knock on the rest of the film – it’s merely the highest compliment for one of the best performances to ever grace the screen, given by perhaps the greatest actor of all time. You have to see the film to really believe how amazing Day-Lewis really is, but what’s so unbelievable about him, and this is true of all his films, is that despite his greatness and commanding screen presence, he leaves plenty of room for everybody else. Whether it’s how Paul Dano, a relatively unheralded young actor, is able to shine nearly as brightly as the legendary actor, or that Anderson’s brilliance in writing and direction is vividly evident, Day-Lewis’s greatness is as much about how he makes those around him better as it is about his own talents.
There Will Be Blood is certainly not an easy film to watch, nor is it a particularly enjoyable experience. But it’s an immensely powerful movie that’s also darkly humorous, poignant, emotional, violent and ultimately, quite tragic. It’s a perversely compelling story about a man who’s torn to shreds by a world not fit enough for his madness, hatred, and stark self loathing. P.T. Anderson has created the type of epic that dares you to avert your eyes even though it’s completely conscious of the fact that it has you utterly transfixed. Daniel Plainview’s tale is a difficult one to swallow, but if you spend the time and energy to fully digest it, it’s somehow a sadistically satisfying experience and as such, There Will Be Blood is easily one of my favorite films of 2007.
As good as There Will Be Blood is, and as incredible as its Blu-ray release looks and sounds, the special features section of the disc is nothing short of a disappointment. The extras last just under 30 minutes (not including the 26 minute 1923 short film we’re provided with), and that is way too paltry for Anderson’s grand work of art. There Will Be Blood is a film that utterly transfixed me, so it would’ve been a real treat to listen to an in depth commentary from Anderson and/or Day-Lewis, but alas, we don’t get anything close to this. All complaining aside though, there are a few worthwhile features, so let’s get to them.
First up is “15 Minutes”, a montage of sorts that juxtaposes real photographs from Anderson’s research with the edited version of his final film. Set to Johnny Greenwood’s haunting score, the result is absolutely fantastic, and it’s truly amazing to see just how perfectly Anderson captured the atmosphere and the people of the time period. From the clothes, the environment, and all the way down to individual mannerisms, Anderson nails it all, and the montage is a mesmerizing feature.
Next are three deleted scenes: “Fishing”, “Haircut/Interrupted Hymn” and “Dailies Gone Wild” are all good scenes that seem like they would’ve fit right into the film. They are certainly short enough, and they all feature Daniel Day-Lewis, who can never have too many scenes. But therein lays the problem of the special features of There Will Be Blood: we never hear from any of the people involved with the production and thus, receive little to no explanation for anything.
The only other extras on the disc are the two trailers and a silent film from 1923 called The Story of Petroleum. It’s a nice addition, and it provides interesting insight into the exploits of the oil industry during the time period, but it really doesn’t have any direct relationship with There Will Be Blood. Once again, I wanted more in the way of explanation, and obviously, a silent film isn’t the best explanatory tool.
As you can tell, I’m not very happy with the extras on the Blu-ray release of There Will Be Blood, but you won’t find a word of discontent in my film review, and that’s much more important. My disappointment with the special features portion of the disc stems mainly from my desire for information and explanation of the production of the film, but luckily, it’s a powerhouse exposition all on its own. Despite the lackluster extras, I highly recommend purchasing There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray, as the caliber of the movie and its flawless Hi-Def presentation make it a must own.
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