The title is a prophecy, a warning, or a vengeful supernatural pronouncement. Paul Thomas Anderson’s unusual masterpiece, freely tailored by him from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, is a tragic parable of man’s dependence on this commodity: previously the lubricant of economic triumph and technological innovation, and now the dwindling lifeblood of our materials prosperity, the unacknowledged driving power of our army conflicts, and even the reason for a coming ecological disaster. That darkish title threatens a calamity now seen on the horizon: destruction of the Earth itself. And it’s all inscribed within the story of the film’s main character, a person with the Bunyanesque title of Daniel Plainview.
Daniel Day-Lewis offers maybe the best, definitely essentially the most unique efficiency of his profession as an oil prospector within the early twentieth century, rewarded with colossal wealth that by no means offers him the smallest pleasure and serves solely to amplify the loneliness, paranoia and resentment that have been there from the very starting. Day-Lewis appears to have unlocked this character’s thriller by seizing on a voice: a strong, cantankerous Scots-Irish accent that he has modified from John Huston (a borrowing that itself might have a subtextual reminder of Huston directing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). As a poor man, Plainview is seen hacking fanatically away in a silver mine, to the accompaniment of an eerie, atonal rating by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood: he by chance discovers oil, just like the apes at the start of Kubrick’s 2001 discovering their opposable thumbs.
The film maybe appears even stranger, starker and extra unforgiving now than when it was launched in 2007. Since then, Day-Lewis has given extra emollient and sympathetic performances: as Abraham Lincoln for Spielberg in 2012, and because the fictional English couturier Reynolds Woodcock for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread in 2017. In contrast with both, Plainview is uncompromising and uningratiating, and it’s a grandiloquent efficiency that might be anticipated of nobody else. Maybe not Olivier in his display heyday would have tried one thing so melodramatically unusual – and sure, the bizarre “milkshake” monologue on the finish now feels a bit uncovered. Nobody apart from Day-Lewis may have carried it off. The movie can also be intensely, disconcertingly male, a narrative of male toxicity with none actual feminine dimension.
As a wealthy man, Plainview is marooned in an enormous, darkish mausoleum of a home, boasting with black-comic savagery that he’ll suck up each competitor’s oil like a milkshake. This scene, together with one exhibiting Plainview theatrically driving a stake by way of a declare map in entrance of traders, is maybe there to make us consider Welles’s Charles Kane, the entrepreneur as performative capitalist, bully and showoff. Like Kane, Plainview is a person whose distinction resides in not having one thing further however one thing lacking, a niche the place his coronary heart must be, a religious imbalance producing neurotic, self-destructive vitality.
It may be that Anderson was impressed by Nicolas Roeg’s underrated film Eureka from 1983, primarily based on a real story, with Gene Hackman because the super-rich Arctic prospector Jack McCann, who was ultimately to face loneliness and a grisly loss of life.
There Will Be Blood might itself have been an affect on The Social Community, directed by David Fincher, through which Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg is pushed by resentment and rage to create the social media world that now guidelines our lives. However from 2016, there was a raging Plainview in plain sight within the White Home: Trump, the eccentric property billionaire and spoilt child whose cranky tweets are as loopy as Plainview’s deranged “milkshake” pronouncement.
What a spectacle Anderson and Day-Lewis create: a portrait of male belligerence and concern, a Tutankhamun of distress, walled up in his personal sarcophagus of wealth and status.