the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room
there will be blood 

Is the film "There Will Blood" really as brilliant as many critics said?

“There Will Be Blood” is now available on a 2-disc DVD.

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has certainly drawn from the well of Hollywood ghosts like Orson Welles and John Ford. This film feels important and brilliant. The scope and the long drawn-out takes add a sense of scale to Daniel Day-Lewis' strut as oilman Daniel Plainview. You feel as though you're watching a work of artistic filmmaking here. There's a little bit of the pomp of "Citizen Kane," and a bit of John Ford's flawed movie heroes mixed into Anderson's film. This is controlled and often times stunning filmmaking. It seems as though every letter "i" has been dotted, and every letter "t" crossed.        

I found myself drawn into "There Will Be Blood." As the movie progressed, little images of movie critic blurbs crossed my mind. "Flawless filmmaking!" "An American Classic!" "Truly one of the best films of this century!" I'm paraphrasing, of course. But the critical consensus about "Blood" was that it was the second coming of Welles or Ford. Was this film brilliant and flawless to me, though? I'm still not sure.

The simple story of self-made oilman Daniel Plainview is intriguing. This is one determined man. Donald Trump, you got nothin' on Plainview. From Plainview's early mining days, to his rich oil mogul kingdom he's built, this is man knows what he wants. He's a sharp man and can charm the hell out of almost anyone he comes across. Not charming in the sense that the ladies swoon, but charming enough to talk people into letting him drill on their land. Along his journey to oil riches, he takes a suddenly orphaned boy (Dillon Freasier) into his life and runs his business with him. Plainview also is drawn in by a preacher (Paul Dano) who is either a good man, or a con artist.

Day-Lewis is superb in this film, no doubt about that. His accent is perfectly suited to what one might think of men in his era. There's an old-time quality to his performance, bringing to mind actors of the past like Gary Cooper or John Wayne. He's gruff and hasn't any love for no human beings. Strangely, he's likable, and even though he ruthlessly pursues oil, you like the guy. At least you like him for a while. His performance is strong and understated without resorting to going into hysterics like so many actors do. Case in point, the Tom Cruise "I gotta yell to make my point" and-make-my-eyes-bug-out scenes he's so famous for. Day-Lewis doesn't do that in this film. His performance is cool and confident. You end up fascinated with this man and his pursuit of oil, no matter the cost.

Anderson's film is very good, but like his 1997 epic about porn, "Boogie Nights," the film seems so incredibly well-made, yet empty. You walk away admiring so much of Anderson's filmmaking talent, yet wonder if it really made an impact on you. "Boogie Nights" reminded me of Martin Scorsese use of fast camerawork and his fascination with a seedy world. "There Will Be Blood" reminds me of old-style moviemaking, mixed with a wink of an eye to Welles or Ford. How might they have made this same film if they had lived in the 21st century.

Like "Boogie Nights", "There Will Be Blood" sticks with you after you watch it. Some of the scenes that Anderson directs are so well-done, you think he's still channeling Scorsese. Most of the performances are incredible, and if you watch certain scenes, you're awestruck by their proficiency. Robert Elswit's cinematography is extraordinary. Anderson creates scenes that college film school professors might show to their students. "Study Anderson's use of the camera, his dialogue, his directing." He is a good craftsman. You think to yourself, damn, this is good stuff. He's very adept in putting you into the world of yesteryear very well.

But after watching "There Will Be Blood" and how it concludes, there was a let down for me. I asked myself, "Was that it?"  Like "Boogie Nights," this film becomes muddled with Anderson's insistence upon drawing out the story as far as he can, and then some. It's as though he's trying to make bold statements with each scene he creates. It's as though he's making every scene an homage to previous directors. I suppose there's not much wrong with that approach. Most of today's directors borrow some of their style from "the great ones." I remember being in school and some of my professors loved to bash Spielberg for "stealing" shots from Hitchcock. I thought Spielberg was so original, and I still feel he's an amazing talent. The strength of Spielberg in his first heyday (most of the 1970s and 1980s), was his ability to pay homage, or borrow, from the master directors and make it his own. There was that Spielberg touch, if you will. Anderson is different. His films that I've seen are good (I will watch "Magnolia" and "Punch Drunk Love" to be fair to Anderson). Yet I think despite strong scripting and directing and acting, Anderson's films feel cold at the core, especially "There Will Be Blood." They seem to be more about filmmaking technique (as good as it is), rather than touching and communicating with an audience. Spielberg can touch an audience. Anderson doesn't. I think if I hadn't seen so many classic and current films over the years, then Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" would stand out by being original and daring. Plus I'm not as young and movie impressionable as I used to be. In a way, Anderson reminds me of Michael Cimino ("The Deer Hunter"). There's a sense of filmmaking self-confidence that you see in every frame, no doubt. But you feel empty inside and unchanged after seeing their films.  

I don't hate "There Will Be Blood." It's a film I recommend to people if they're up for some good scenes and acting. It is a strong bit of filmmaking. In fact, I liked many of the pieces. As a whole, it doesn't add up for me. By the way many critics jumped for joy at the sight of "There Will Be Blood," they made me think that this was this century's masterpiece. I looked forward to it. I was hoping that someone would make a classic film, one for the ages, in our new century. That's a lofty wish, but when is the last time we've had a truly great movie made?

Unlike "The Godfather" (1972) or "Schindler's List" (1993), "There Will Be Blood" doesn't belong on the mantle of the "classics." At least for me, at this point in time, it doesn't. A great film stays with you. It continues to resonate in your head, and you want to watch it again and again because you enjoy it, not because it's a filmmaker's ode to past cinematic achievements. I don't think I'll revisit this film like I've done with "Raiders of the Lost Ark," or "Apocalypse Now," or "Bridge on the River Kwai." "There Will Be Blood" is a good film, but not a great one.                  

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Excellent acting, direction,  cinematography, cold heart at the core

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day- Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J O'Conner
, Dillon Freasier     


Pictures, dailies, deleted scenes, etc.



Picture: Very good
Sound: Excellent

Masterful filmmaking technique

Superb sound and color

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

April 8, 2008