There Will Be Blood is a 2007 film, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It takes place in the late 19th - early 20th century, and is a loose adaptation of the novel, Oil! by Upton Sinclair. It's almost 3 hours long and tackles many themes throughout that time, such as capitalism, religion, and family. I feel like the title perfectly encapsulates these themes. It's a direct quote from the book of Exodus, and "blood," in the context of the film, could be interpereted both as the blood shared by family, or the protagonist's violent nature.
The film is critically-acclaimed. Daniel-Day-Lewis won an Oscar and an Academy Award for his performance. There is no shortage of writing on the subject of this film, so rather than giving a formal analysis or review, I'm just going to ramble about why I love it so much. I'm going to try and keep this free of any major spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen the film, maybe this will entice you.
Daniel Plainview makes a really compelling protagonist. As the viewer, we're forced to follow him throughout the narrative, never knowing what he's going to do next. He's capable of being cold and calculating, we watch him lie to others for financial gain many times. But he's also capable of erratic and impulsive behavior, drinking in excess, or having violent outbursts.
At the same time, it is often easy to sympathize with him. He's endured many hardships, and he's doing his best to raise his son, H.W. despite having fatherhood thrust on him unexpectedly. His relationship with H.W. is especially interesting, because at times it becomes apparent that Daniel is using his child to gain sympathy from potential investors, painting himself as an honest "family man." But the interactions we see between Daniel and H.W. early in the film suggest a genuine bond between the two.
H.W. deserves better. He goes through so much and I just want the best for him. He kind of acts as the film's true moral compass. We have both a father figure, and a preacher as main characters, yet H.W. consistently has the sharpest intuition, and genuinely cares for others with no ulterior motive. There are several times throughout the film (I don't want to spoil too much) where H.W. discovers important information before Daniel does.
It's never stated exactly what H.W. stands for. His first name has been theorized to be Henry, as that is Daniel's brother's name. Another interesting theory is that it simply stands for "Hard Worker." Personally, I think it stands for "Hotdog Water" but I guess we'll never really know.
Dillon Freasier delivers an amazing performance as H.W. which is even more impressive considering the fact that he isn't even an actor. He lived near the shooting location, and happened to be scouted by the casting director. After meeting with Paul Thomas Anderson, he was officially cast in the role. To this day, it is the only acting role he's ever had.
Speaking of interesting casting choices...
Paul Sunday, played by Paul Dano. He's not super important in the film, in fact he's just there for one scene in the beginning to sell Daniel information on where he can find oil. From what I've heard, he has a much more prominent role in Oil! by Upton Sinclair, and I guess he joins the communist party??? I've just started reading it so I don't actually know if that's true yet.
Anyway, Paul Dano was cast as Paul Sunday and was SUPPOSED to just be in this one little scene. BUT the actor who was supposed to play the main antagonist of the film dropped out for reasons that are still not entirely clear to this day. This antagonist character happened to be Paul Sunday's brother, so PTA decided to make some last-minute changes to the script and make them TWINS so they could both be played by Paul Dano, who only had FOUR DAYS to prepare for this role.
Eli Sunday, an evangelical preacher who feuds with Daniel when he refuses to give him money for his church after drilling for oil on his father's land. He believes he is gifted with the holy spirit and has the ability to heal people, and the authority to bestow divine blessings. Despite his seemingly pious and selfless nature, he is extremely prideful. He lavishes in the attention he gets at his sermons, he wants Daniel's money to grow his church and gain more followers.
He's the perfect antagonist to Daniel's character because they're one in the same. They're both susceptible to violent outburts and vindictive behavior, and they're both willing to manipulate others to get what they want. For Daniel, it's money, but for Eli, it's fame.
The interactions between Eli and Daniel are so funny to me. They're both so catty towards each other.
Look how Eli tries to hold Daniel's hand and pray and then immediately gets REJECTED. I will die on the hill that TWBB is a dark comedy. Knowing Paul Thomas Anderson's other work, I'd say this is a fair assumption. It's definitely not a movie you expect to laugh at going in, but the acting and writing feel so realistic that it's almost like watching reality TV drama, there are moments where you almost expect the characters to stare blank-faced into the camera. While it definitely has some very grim and serious moments, it contrasts it with impeccable comedic timing scattered throughout.
It's also just absolutely gorgeous to look at. I've seen this film 5 times in the past year as of writing this, and I'm still blown away by the visuals upon every rewatch. It really is my favorite movie ever and I could talk about it until I pass away. If you haven't seen it, go change that. If you have seen it, maybe you'd be interested in some super cool graphics for your site designed by yours truly.
Thanks for reading all that!