There Will Be Blood

Rated 4.0

With a loose, febrile adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson makes a bombastic breakthrough, finally achieving the greatness for which he’s so often credited. There Will Be Blood, Anderson’s fifth feature, unfolds as an unabashedly cruel allegory about the corrosive, competing urges of capitalism and evangelism—as embodied, respectively, by a driven and devilish turn-of-the century speculator (Daniel Day-Lewis, utterly titanic) and a shifty neophyte Holy Roller (Paul Dano, committed, if sometimes susceptible to actorly inelegance). Their mutually humiliating rivalry is gripping enough to distract from the peculiar lack of real character arcs, and so is the angry-cicada-swarm score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, which seems like an essential character itself. Anderson directs with magnetic confidence, leaving viewers to wonder just what it means that his movie forces itself into a brutal, absurdly operatic, tonally incongruous ending.