Paul Thomas Anderson has created a film unlike any of his others with There Will Be Blood. While Magnolia, Hard Eight and Boogie Nights all may appear as though they came from a dark place, Blood literally does: the ground.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview “an oilman” (you will agree) and self-proclaimed “family man” (you won’t agree). Paul Dano plays Eli Sunday, an appropriate surname for a young man as seemingly devout as he is. Eli, in no uncertain terms, is more of a demon than a saint and almost more of a demon than the oil tycoon/Devil-incarnate that is Plainview.
The story is faceted to the belief that the weight of these character’s consequences is going to eventually be unbearable to them, and so we simply wait for them to collapse under that weight onscreen before us. Well, they do and they don’t, but shrouding their lives in the dripping American gothicness of the film doesn’t enable the audience to really identify with any of the characters anyway. The film is more of a dark, glossy fairytale than a palpable commentary on the death of American values due to capitalism (e.g. oil).
So the question is, even though it’s beautiful, austere, literate filmmaking by Anderson, is it really anything more than an empty exercise in exaggerated style?