The Best Film Made In My Lifetime? Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007)


I’ve seen There Will Be Blood close to twenty times since it was released in 2007. I’ve had a few years off before this revisit yet it remains the most monolithic American movie made in my lifetime. It begins Paul Thomas Anderson’s current obsession with injecting rigid period pieces with looseness, bugged-out weirdness and operatic style rooted in the absurd and surreal.

As many filmmakers have run with this baton in the subsequent years, it might be easy to forget how fierce and original There Will Be Blood felt nine years ago. Granted I saw it for the first time when I was only sixteen and had nowhere near the amount of knowledge of cinema I do now but I knew I had never seen anything like it before in my life.

So much of this film shouldn’t work – Greenwood’s score, Plainview’s black heart, it’s structure-less plotting, heightened performances and relentless air of doom and greed – yet they all resonate because of how confidently Anderson’s vision is executed. Day Lewis and Dano are perfect sparring partners. The extended close-ups on either of their faces are forever burnt into my conciousness. That final scene is an all-timer. Nobody throws an insult like Daniel Plainview (“I toooldd you I would eat you!!!”) One of those films that is undeniably perfect yet doesn’t feel bloodless and pristine (See: Kubrick).

It’s the weird, organic moments that stand out for me. The snapshots you know they stumbled across after endless takes: Plainview randomly putting the napkin over his face, “I’m your brother…from another mother”, the camera readjusting during Eli and Plainview’s showdowns, how Dano and Day-Lewis occasionally descend into raised voices mimicking each other mockingly. The fact Anderson let both actors go as far as they do (in that final scene especially) and kept it in the movie is just beautiful.

An inspiring and important work of punk-art that I have repeatedly called the best American film of it’s time. I love There Will Be Blood mad amounts. It changed me and even made movies better. One of those films you wish you could devour and call it your own. A blood-is-thicker-than-oil MASTERPIECE.

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