Sunday, January 31, 2010

#40 There Will Be Blood: Drained dry, you boy

2007. dir. P.T. Anderson, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin O'Connor.

Seen it before? Yes.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-century prospector. The opening of the movie is ten minutes long and virtually wordless as we see Daniel unsuccessfully dig for gold, and then successfully dig for oil. Daniel has men working for him, and he is forced to adopt one of their sons where the man dies in the well. The movie jumps forward 11 years...

The main part of the movie concerns Plainview's attempt to drill the "ocean of oil" underneath Little Boston, and his dealings with Eli Sunday, the local preacher. Eli is one of those charismatic cast-out-demons sort of preachers. Daniel refuses to take him seriously. The movie becomes a duel between them, and it builds to a jaw-dropping finale.

Daniel Day-Lewis got Best Actor for this movie, and it's richly deserved. Daniel Plainview is one of the most memorable and complex movie characters ever created. There are some scenes where you see his humanity and vulnerability, and others where he seems like a devil or a vampire.

My three favorite scenes:
  • The scene where the oil well bursts into flames. Johnny Greenwood, the guy from Radiohead, did the score for the movie, and it's particularly memorable here.
  • The conversion scene in the church.
  • The infamous "milkshake" scene.
Check out the extras on the Blu-Ray. There is a montage of old photographs from the era, and a film from 1926 about the process of drilling for oil. A lot of the scenes of prospecting and surveying seem to be directly lifted from this material. Some of these scenes go on too long, contributing to the excessive length of the movie. P.T. Anderson needs to hire an editor.

Position on the list: 129
Meaning of the title: I'm not quite sure. This isn't a particularly violent movie (one scene excepted) but there are references to blood in a few other senses. Daniel says he drinks "blood of the lamb" from Bandy's tract, referring to oil, and Eli makes Daniel beg for the blood of Jesus during the conversion scene. Another recurring motif is water - there's the water that is the only thing the Sundays can extract from the land and that Daniel says can bring irrigation to the town, there's the ocean that Daniel is trying to pipe the oil to, there's the baptism scene, and there's the huge bottle of it that Daniel guzzles during the finale. Maybe it's something to do with blood being thicker than water? We only see two relatives of Daniel in the movie, and (spoiler) both turn out not to be any blood relation at all. I don't know.


  1. I really liked this and thought it was really sad... maybe I was projecting. I have to watch it again and pay attention to the water thing.

  2. The Milkshake scene from "There Will Be Blood" is one of the best scenes in movie history. If you like you to laugh, here is a funny version of it from the movie "41 year-old Virgin." Milkshake clip on Youtube: