While it's been a long wait since the last effort from Paul Thomas Anderson (2002's "Punch-Drunk Love"), his latest feature, "There Will Be Blood" was worth the wait, as Anderson continues to be one of modern cinema's more interesting and bold directors. Based on the novel by Upton Sinclair, the picture stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, who is first seen in the film's dialogue-free first 15-or-so minutes trying to dig for gold and silver by his lonesome self at his property in the late 1800's. He winds up finding a rather hefty oil deposit and hires workers, but also finds himself with a son after a tragic accident that occurs at the site results in a child with no one to care for it.
The child is named HW and becomes a "partner" in the family business. By 1911, he seeks to expand his empire, going place-to-place and speaking with townsfolk, trying to buy up properties to drill. He is visited by Paul (Paul Dano), a man who lives on a California ranch where oil is leaking out of the ground. He drives a hard bargain and when Daniel goes to visit, his brother Eli (also played by Dano) offers an even harder bargain: he won't sell unless Daniel offers a $10,000 donation to his church.
Daniel's only interest is the oil that is sitting underneath the area. He goes around buying up properties for cheap and convinces the townsfolk with another charismatic speech. However, Eli asks for one thing: to bless the oil well in front of the townsfolk before it is started up. While Daniel agrees, when he breezes through the well introduction without even mentioning Eli, Daniel will soon realize that he has created quite an enemy. Meanwhile, things start going wrong at the well, and HW is made deaf by an accident that ends with a rig fire lighting up the night sky.
The second half of the picture is just as fascinating and moody as the first half, and chronicles Daniel's gradual downward spiral, from sending his injured son off to his behavior becoming increasingly psychotic. Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his performance in the film and I have no doubt that he deserved the award, as this is one of the finest performances in the last few years. Shifting effortlessly between easygoing charm and the kind of volanic fire within that has rarely been seen in recent cinema, this is a towering effort from the actor that will stand as one of his best works. The actor does a terrific job portraying Daniel's descent into despair and madness, as he finds that, despite his wealth, he is emotionally and spiritually broke.
The remainder of the cast certainly are stellar as well, with Paul Dano offering an impressive effort as Eli, who has moments where he shows he can be as fierce as Daniel. Director Anderson is also once again backed up by a series of expert crew members, including ace cinematographer Robert Elswit and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who creates one of the most memorable and haunting film scores I've heard in quite some time. The film has a remarkable sense of dread for much of the running time, and much of that can be attributed to Greenwood's wonderfully moody work.
Overall, this is my favorite of Anderson's films - I think it's the director's finest work. It combines a riveting performance by Day-Lewis with a fascinating story and an unbelievable amount of momentum and intensity. This is a film that feels shorter than its epic length and absolutely sticks with the viewer.
VIDEO: "There Will Be Blood" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 (1080p/VC-1). This is a very good transfer of the material. While it is not a big upgrade over the DVD in terms of image quality, there are noticable differences. Sharpness and detail are often just fine, although some shots appear slightly softer, although this appears to possibly be an intentional element of the cinematography. The Blu-Ray presentation does offer improved definition, but the look of the film - many scenes crisp and detailed, others not as much - is retained. The presentation is very good, but the image doesn't have the kind of three-dimensional appearance that some titles on the format offer, and those viewing the film for the first time should not expect it.
The presentation didn't show any edge enhancement or artifacting, but I did notice one or two tiny specks on the print used. Some light-to-mild grain is seen, but it's certainly an intentional element of the cinematography. Colors appeared somewhat on the muted side (with some exceptions), but looked accurately presented once again here. Flesh tones also looked spot-on. While not night-and-day versus the DVD edition, the somewhat stronger Blu-Ray presentation does an excellent job showing off Robert Elswit's terrific cinematography.
SOUND: "There Will Be Blood" is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on the Blu-Ray edition. The film's sound mix doesn't use the rear speakers much for effects, but they did occasionally provide some sound effects and ambience in some of the film's most intense sequences. The best element of the film's audio - and one highlight of the film in general - is the score, which is spread across the front speakers and sounds crisp and clear. Dialogue also sounded natural and well-recorded. No distortion or other concerns were heard.
EXTRAS: Unfortunately, we don't get a great deal of supplements here. All that's included are two deleted scenes, "The Story of Petroleum" 1920's B/W silent film (about 25 minutes), "15 Minutes" (a compilation of some of the research - including stills and other material - that was done for the movie), the film's trailer and teaser trailer and "Dailies Gone Wild" (a look at uninterrupted takes of Day-Lewis in a particular scene.) The video extras are in HD.
Final Thoughts: A magnificent period epic, "There Will Be Blood" is - I think - director Paul Thomas Anderson's finest work. Day-Lewis also turns in a performance that wholly and completely deserved the Oscar win it got. The Blu-Ray presentation ups the presentation quality mildly, but unfortunately doesn't offer anything new in the way of supplemental features versus the DVD edition.
The Film A