Turn of the Century Saga Features Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-Winning Performance as Self-Made Oil Baron
I’m not sure whether audiences love watching anything as much as a good Horatio Alger tale chronicling the triumphant struggle of an underdog who overcomes the humblest of circumstances to amass wealth beyond his or her wildest imagination. Fans of the American Dream genre will undoubtedly salivate over There Will Be Blood, a turn of the century saga ostensibly-inspired by Oil!, the class-conscious novel published by Upton Sinclair back in 1927.
This screen adaptation led the Academy Award hopefuls with eight nominations including Best Picture and Director (Paul Thomas Anderson), although it ultimately only won in the Actor and Cinematography categories. Despite clocking in at a patience-testing 2? hours, the tortoise-paced picture is nonetheless worthwhile for the latest spellbinding performance by Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis alone.
From My Beautiful Launderette to My Left Foot to In the Name of the Father to Gangs of New York, the very versatile thespian has proven himself capable of adapting imperceptibly to any era and setting, and of adopting the requisite accent and mannerisms. Here, it is 1898, and he plays Daniel Plainview, a struggling silver prospector barely eking out a living in Texas, who decides to strike out for California with his son (Dillon Freasier) in tow, based on a tip that there’s oil in them thar hills.
Sure enough, the pair soon find plenty of petroleum, however, gaining the rights to the land to extract the black gold calls for a combination of ruthless manipulation and unalloyed greed that is most unbecoming. For not only do they sell their souls on the way to fortune, but even their familial bonds end up being sorely tested.
Exploring a plethora of themes of Shakespearean dimensions (ambition, faith, loyalty and love to name a few), this grand production inexorably builds to a showdown between the despicable Plainview and an equally-corrupt, Bible-thumping preacher (Paul Dano) who only wants his cut of the action. A curious morality play which hints at a tawdry connection between capitalism and Christianity.
There Will Be Blood
The Beverly Hillbillies, sans the cement pond.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for violence.
Running time: 158 minutes
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: “Dailies Gone Wild,” “The Story of Petroleum” (a black & white silent film chronicling the oil business in the 1920s), trailers, “Fishing” sequence, “15 Minutes” (pictures, research, etcetera for the making of the film), and Haircut/Interrupted Hymn.