There Will Be Blood
A great smoldering performance by Daniel Day-Lewis is at the center of this much-heralded production from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia). Day-Lewis is Daniel Plainview, a solitary miner/prospector who parlays an isolated discovery of oil in California circa 1898 into an aggressively expansive and perversely independent empire. The most crucial and primal character clash is ultimately between Plainview and a charismatic young evangelist and grass-roots entrepreneur named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Eli’s brother Paul (also played by Dano) makes the deal that triggers Plainview’s launch into empire-building, but Eli, modeled on profit-oriented evangelists from Southern California’s past, is much the greater promoter and deal-maker, with the ultimate result that Plainview sees him as, among other things, a greater threat than the corporate might of the Standard Oil executives whom he also violently and willfully defies. TWBB’s larger allegorical gestures suggest religion and big business locked in an unholy embrace, with Plainview and Eli as matched false prophets dueling for ever-higher stakes. It seems Plainview knows that better, and more insidiously, than Eli, and so must preside over their mutual self-destruction.