There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood

****

 

There certainly have been some great movies this decade (“About Schmidt,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Prestige”).

But there has been a lack of truly groundbreaking cinema – films like “Being John Malkovich,” “Natural Born Killers,” and “2001.” The sort of movies that seem like they were made by aliens from a distant planet – a world where the spirit of avant garde originality is far more advanced than ours.

“There Will Be Blood” is the most unique visionary film of the decade.

Daniel Day-Lewis is Daniel Plainview, a man who is 100% committed to making his fortune on the American frontier. When we meet him in 1898 he is all alone in a mineshaft, literally breaking his bones looking for silver in the desolate mountains.

A few years later Daniel switches his focus to oil and begins making money. He ultimately settles on a gloriously profitable oil strike in Southern California. There he begins his forward-thinking project of building a pipeline to the Pacific to save on shipping costs.

And there he meets Eli Sunday, a fiery young preacher who believes that a portion of Daniel’s oil profits should go toward his church. The two men become life long enemies.

Daniel Day-Lewis is magnificent as the film’s oil baron anti-hero.

Daniel Plainview is a force of nature. He is fiercely ambitious and he is clever enough to pull off even his wildest schemes. A competitive fire is forever burning in his restless soul in the place where love should be.

The grand finale, where Daniel and Eli have a bloody showdown inside Daniel’s mansion, is jaw-droppingly amazing. I think it is one of the greatest scenes in cinema history.

Eli comes to offer Daniel some potentially oil rich land. Daniel quickly recognizes that his old nemesis is hard up for money and desperate to sell. Daniel promises to pay the full price that Eli is asking, under one condition: the minister has to proclaim that he is a false prophet and that God is a superstition.

Eli willingly mutters the humiliating confession. “Say it like you believe it,” Daniel demands. Soon the oilman has the preacher yelling “I am a false prophet and God is a superstition!” at the top of his lungs, over and over, like it is the Lord’s Prayer in reverse.

When Eli’s spirit is utterly broken and his entire life’s work is reduced to a lie, Daniel announces that he won’t buy the land because he has already taken all of the oil that used to be under it.

The climax perfectly underscores the fact that the two men are cut from the same cloth: they are miserable, immoral, and driven entirely by vanity and greed. The only difference is that Daniel is smarter and chose a better racket.

The ending will be too grim and hopeless for some viewers, but to me it was absolutely resplendent – even uplifting in its surreal intensity.

“There Will Be Blood” is not for all audiences. But for art film aficionados, it is easily the best film of 2007.

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