Sunday, October 26, 2014

Movie #40: There Will Be Blood

People have been telling me to watch some Paul Thomas Anderson movies for a while now, so I finally did. A quick look at his filmography shows a pretty wide range, but I chose There Will Be Blood since it comes most recommended, followed by Boogie Nights.

Short review: this is a ponderous movie that focuses on an unlikable character, but without, say, Llewyn Davis's musical numbers to make you sympathetic. That's not to say it's bad--not at all. It's a fascinating descent into madness and greed. I recommend it to anyone who can sit through ponderous movies.


After finding oil while mining for gold, Daniel Plainview decides to become an oil baron in the early 1900s. With the money from his first wells, Daniel seeks new new investments to increase his fortune, using the demeanor of a plain-speaking family man to win over communities willing to part with their land.

After receiving a tip from a stranger, he heads to some land in California where the oil is seeping up from the ground. He sets about winning over the town while concocting a plan to build a pipeline that will secure his profits from the railroad's expensive shipping prices. And he won't let anybody stand in his way.


I actually saw a bit of this movie on TV several years ago. Some friends and I sat down and started watching after a session of D&D. We started about half-way through the movie, and the only thing we knew about it was that it was called "There Will Be Blood." So, we kept watching for the blood, and it just never came. We got impatient, declared it false advertising, and left.

As it turns out, we just needed to be patient. There was indeed blood, right at the end. There was a little bit of blood here and there before that part, but clearly the Blood that There Will Be was the blood at the end of the movie. It was kind of satisfying.

Only kind of, though. I mean, Eli was an adversary, certainly, but he had clearly long since fallen beneath Daniel at that point. His death wasn't the death of a long-time rival. If anything, his death was the misplaced anger Daniel felt toward him for the loss of H.W. Sure, it's clear that Daniel held quite a grudge against Eli for the baptism scene over a decade prior, but I think it was Eli's constant reminding Daniel that "we're brothers now!" that likely pushed Daniel over the edge.

In any case, the movie seemed to simply show Daniel steadily gaining everything he ever wanted while losing what little he seemed to value. Though I'm not sure what Daniel really valued. Did he truly have any affection for H.W.? Did his pride really mean anything? Did family mean anything? It's hard to tell.

In fact, I think all he really wanted was to show that he could succeed, and to rub his success in the faces of others. He said as much to Henry: that he basically wants all of the success, and he wants it all for himself.

And, as he said to the Standard Oil representatives, if he had everything he wanted already, what would he even do with himself? He's obsessed with building his success, so once he has it there's nothing left. He begins to spiral downward, and Eli gets caught in it with him.

Anyway, the acting is great, and the story is impactful. It's only the slow, ponderous pacing that holds me back from recommending to to everyone.

1 comment:

  1. I guess we weren't very fair to this movie back then. My taste was pretty bad. Of course, we also stumbled into the middle of it and weren't in a particularly reflective mood to begin with.

    I've since given it another chance, and it actually is very good.