Paul Thomas Anderson's flawed yet fascinating epic is a supremely strange period piece that evokes a host of current cultural issues: our obsession with oil, the role of religion in society, the perils of unchecked capitalism, family values.
And it's anchored by an immersive, sometimes scary tour-de-force performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as an early-20th-century oil prospector who seethes with ambiguously sourced, barely contained intensity. Like the rest of Anderson's now sporadic output -- There Will Be Blood is just his second feature since 1999's Magnolia -- this is an ambitious undertaking marked by an obsessive vision. There Will Be Blood is very loosely based on Upton Sinclair's muckraking 1927 novel, Oil. Anderson pares down Sinclair's more expansive narrative to focus on Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), whose puzzling, dark-hued nature belies his straightforward name. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's eccentric score and longtime Anderson collaborator Robert Elswit's striking visuals add to the film's singular impact. While There Will Be Blood's notorious finale might seem improbably disjointed in tone from its elegiac, relatively low-key first two hours, I'm not sure what would've been a more appropriate ending to Anderson's creation, one in which a fearless director and performer combine to create a vision of America's past that looks a lot like its present. This two-disc DVD set offers a platter of "extras," which includes "The Story of Petroleum," a curious 25-minute black-and-white silent from 1923 that clearly influenced what would become There Will Be Blood. (Jason Gargano) Grade: A-
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