The Best of Netflix: There Will Be Blood (2007)

By: Tom Magennis

Hello there ladies, gentlemen, this is Get Reel Movies’ The Best of Netflix, a new series, dedicated to helping readers who can’t be bothered to go to the Cinema to get the full value out of that most wonderfully addictive streaming service, Netflix.

This week, I’m recommending Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

A masterpiece of direction and cinematography, (Even if, in the words of In The Loop’s Jamie MacDonald, “There wasn’t any f***ing blood!”) There Will Be Blood tells the story of Daniel Plainview, an up and coming oil tycoon in the early 20th century, (played legendarily by Daniel Day-Lewis) and his rivalry with Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday, an evangelistic preacher who hold’s control over an oil-rich village which Plainview wishes to drill under.

The standout performances are what seal this film as an epic, with Day-Lewis especially putting in a phenomenal (and Academy Award-winning) performance as Plainview, the method-acting for which he is renowned allowing him to become totally immersed in the role, and in turn allowing the audience to perceive every single quirk and trait of the character.

As the film progresses, the viewer is able to empathise with Plainview (Not sympathise with him, god no, it’s just good acting) as he sinks into the very depths of madness, adding true weight to the psychological horror that begins to creep in around the edges as Plainview’s greed gradually corrupts him. But Paul Dano should by no means be denied credit for his role as Eli, who is a few feet down the loony hole before Plainview even arrives, preaching a bizarre and radical sect of Christianity of his own creation that he appears to be using to manipulate the town and his family to his will.

The chemistry between the two actors is incredible, (as all those who have seen the infamous and memetic “Milkshake” scene will attest) their madness playing off one another, as they battle for control of a town full of people blissfully unaware of their role as mere playing pieces in this game of ego vs ego.

Paul Thomas Anderson plays a dual role, not only creating a screenplay crackling with dramatic tension, but also providing expert direction to transform the raw talent of Dano and Day Lewis into something truly magnificent, shaping scenes that are at once so real that the viewer almost flinches, and filled with the classic drama of the Shakespearean stage, the pure unadulterated energy of the two leads leaking out through the screen, and putting the reader on the edge of his seat.

Of course one must also be mindful of the completely astonishing cinematography. Robert Elswitt’s stunning wide open vistas are beautifully complemented by Johnny Greenwood’s sweeping orchestral score, and the iconic shot of the burning derrick is a masterpiece of composition, the framing of the scene giving the pillar of flame the look of a portal to hell, the fire filling almost the entire screen, mirroring the all-consuming greed of Daniel Plainview.

There Will Be Blood is a breathtakingly unique film, built around two showstopper performances and a screenplay crackling with dramatic tension, but made into something truly memorable by a marvelous soundtrack, masterful cinematography and expert direction on the part of Paul Thomas Anderson, and is well worth checking out, despite the arse-numbingly long run time.

What did you think of There Will be Blood? Let us know in the comments below…

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