I knew two things about There Will Be Blood before I watched it: 1)it was based on a book by Upton Sinclair; 2)it was a Coen brothers film. As I watched it, I couldn’t help but think it was a very odd film for the Coen brothers. It was just so serious and everything was played completely straight. About midway through, I looked it up on IMDb and realized that I had only known one thing about There Will Be Blood: it was based on a book by Upton Sinclair.
So what’s the story? On a tip from a young man named Paul Sunday, prospector-turned-oilman Daniel Plainview travels with his son to the community of Little Boston to see if he can start some oil wells. The land is promising, but Paul’s creepy twin brother, Eli Sunday, has a strange hold over the people of Little Boston.
The Good: I’m not very familiar with Daniel Day-Lewis as an actor, but I didn’t think very much of his performance in Gangs of New York, so I wasn’t exactly jumping with excitement to see him in There Will Be Blood. But his performance as Daniel Plainview was excellent. It had to be; Daniel is in almost the entire movie and for some of the movie, he’s the only person onscreen. The movie wouldn’t have worked with a lesser actor.
I really liked the soundtrack. It wasn’t constant; at times there was no music at all. I like that. It makes it feel more real and less manipulative. I liked, too, that the music was usually played by a smaller group, not necessarily a full orchestra. It reflected the bare bones of the frontier places Plainview was.
The Bad: There were a couple questions I had that never really got answered. Why did HW stop talking? He had the capability to speak. Why did he not? And what happened to Paul Sunday? I suppose if I had a creepy brother like Eli, I might leave and never come back, but why does his family never mention him again? I kept waiting for him to show up again, but he never did. I felt like other people disappeared, too, like Ciaran Hinds’ character. What happened to all those people?
The Ugly: I’m not a big fan of violence, whether it’s intentional or accidental, and many distressingly violent things happen in this movie. My cat finally moved off my lap in disgust because I kept jumping and gasping at things that were happening. Mining and oil well-digging were very dangerous jobs back then, and I didn’t like seeing what could happen to people while they practiced those professions. I’m not mortally offended by it; I’m just not good at handling that kind of stuff.
Oscars Won: Best performance by an actor in a leading role (Daniel Day-Lewis); best achievement in cinematography.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best achievement in directing; best writing, adapted screenplay; best achievement in film editing; best achievement in art direction; best achievement in sound editing.