Spoiler Alert right away. There Will Be Blood is a misleading title. From the title you expect blood in droves, buckets of blood, blood so deep that men are treading water just to stay afloat. There IS blood in There Will Be Blood, but not the vast quantities that I expected.
What there is aplenty is an underlying tension, a violence that’s palpable, and always threatening to bubble to the surface. The oil that gushes from the wells with force is a metaphor for the violence which is always under the surface.
Daniel Day Lewis is spectacular, he chews the scenery, he mimicks the patter and inflection of an oil man from the turn of the century, and he has a menacing quality to him that seems more like a rabid animal than a man. He’s dirty, filthy, when he says he’s an oil man, he doesn’t mean he’s a slick, rich guy, he means that he has oil beneath his fingers, oil on his skin, and oil running through his veins. My only problem with his performance is that he seemed to channel a little bit of Hugo Weaving in it.
There are some interesting interpretations I’ve heard about the movie. Some have said that Lewis’ Daniel Plainvew puts on a show from the beginning and never cares about anything other than getting rich. I think that he’s a man who loses his way, and who realizes too late that the only thing in life that truly matters is family, and he ultimately has none.
Money never seems to matter to Plainview, he doesn’t live to excess until the end of the film, he’s interested in winning to be sure, but I didn’t get the feeling that he really cared about the money. He didn’t seem to care about anything else either mind you, except for his son.
This movie ultimately suffers from the same problem that most “epics” in the post Titanic world suffer. It’s too long by half. 180 150 minutes (apparently I can’t do math) would have been a perfect length for this film. There was easily 20 – 30 minutes of chaff that could have been whittled away to get a tighter running time.
There was a time where Producers (the money men) had the final say, and could tell directors to trim a flick so that they could get more showings at the theatre. That’s a good point, but it also forced directors to think about every shot and make sure that it absolutely positively had to be there.
As an editor I never had a problem making massive slashes to stuff to tell a tighter story (and I have to confess that doing a year long stint creating 3 minute highlight packs in fifteen minutes probably made me better at it than most), and directors should see that less is more. A tighter story means you can focus on the important stuff. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have your long lingering camera shots, but it does mean that you have to employ some economy to the use of them.