Immediately after I finished No Country for Old Men I started up There Will Be Blood. It only seemed natural to jump from the Best Picture Winner of 2008 to what people think is the best movie made since 2000. I think I’ve seen this movie maybe one or two times before now, when There Will Be Blood was considered to be a masterpiece and the best film of the first 10 years of the 2010s. But now after watching it this third time, I have to agree that it remains best movie made since 2000.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a virtuoso performance as Daniel Plainview, an ambitious, eccentric oil man whose ruthless business tactics earned hem fortunes beyond his wildest dreams, laying down the foundation of capitalism and even the state of California as we know it. Day-Lewis commands his character with a ferocious intensity, his eyes pulsating with anger and malevolence. The single hardest challenge for Plainview is not conquering the U.S. oil landscape, nah, that’s easy. Trying not to reveal to those around him how much he loathes the very thought of them is the real challenge. He’s a monster wearing human flesh, a demon strutting around in a three piece suit, whose end goal isn’t so much controlling oil or money, but making sure that no man can ever infringe on his territory. He isn’t so much as hero or villain, as Plainview is a someone who’d hate to be confined to one of those man=made roles, a mere character in someone else’s story. Plainview exists solely to advance himself, whether those around him perceive that as good or evil is their own damn business.
It’s a character for the ages who could only come to life through the actor of the ages. And who is only made possible through the director of the ages Paul Thomas Anderson. There Will Be Blood is a technical marvel, each shot perfectly framed to capture the brisk California landscape, the mucky black oil skies, the ravaging oranges and yellows of fire, and the black, light-less oil. His subject matter is serious and grandiose but he still finds time for laughs, like when Plainview and Eli (played by Paul Dano) get into a wrestling match in the mud. While Anderson clearly shows his affinity for his home state of California, he doesn’t endorse or condemn Plainview. He realizes he’s just the mere filmmaking vessel for this character to come to life.
This shouldn’t suggest There Will Be Blood owes all of its success to Daniel Day-Lewis, as this film really was a 10/10 effort in editing, scoring, cinematography and acting across the board. But Day-Lewis is the pipeline that holds the whole thing together. We travel through him to a final destination of mansions and broken relationships, a man utterly alone, which seems like what he wanted from the get go. It’s masterful storytelling, a movie we’ll look back on in 100 years as evidence that even though there may never be a “perfect” movie, There Will Be Blood came pretty damn close.