In the tradition of Nathanael West and Joan Didion, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson is emerging as his era's most eloquent chronicler of California, having delivered a fascinating cycle of films about the state's recent history and contemporary culture with "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." Anderson reaches further back into California's creation myth in "There Will Be Blood," a searing, apocalyptic and finally breathtaking drama set in the oil boom at the turn of the century.
Based very loosely on the novel "Oil!" by Upton Sinclair, "There Will Be Blood" stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a miner named Daniel Plainview, who while digging for gold and silver in Southern California in the late 1890s discovers oil deep in the sand. (It's another astonishing performance from Day-Lewis, who in the film's silent opening moments even breathes with eerie authenticity.)
"There Will Be Blood," which Anderson wrote and directed, traces Plainview's rise as an independent oilman, his fight with the burgeoning corporate behemoth Standard Oil, his relationship with adopted son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) and his feud with an ambitious young preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano).
Filmed with austere majesty by Robert Elswit and featuring a wildly inventive musical score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, "There Will Be Blood" is a masterful cinematic achievement, pulsing with the ambition and vibrancy of a country still defining itself even as it chronicles the essential contradictions -- between greed and loyalty, God and mammon, the sacred and the profane -- that endure to this day.
-- Ann Hornaday (Jan. 4, 2008)