It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
By Roger Ebert
The voice of the oil man sounds made of oil, gristle and syrup. It is deep and reassuring, absolutely sure of itself, and curiously fraudulent. No man who sounds this forthright can be other than a liar. His name is Daniel Plainview, and he must have given the name to himself as a private joke, for little that he does is as it seems. In Paul Thomas Anderson's brutal, driving epic "There Will Be Blood," he begins by trying to wrest silver from the earth with a pick and shovel, and ends by extracting countless barrels of oil whose wealth he keeps all for himself. Daniel Day-Lewis makes him a great oversize monster who hates all men, including therefore himself.
Watching the movie is like viewing a natural disaster that you cannot turn away from. By that I do not mean that the movie is bad, any more than it is good. It is a force beyond categories. It has scenes of terror and poignancy, scenes of ruthless chicanery, scenes awesome for their scope, moments echoing with whispers and an ending that in some peculiar way this material demands, because it could not conclude on an appropriate note -- there has been nothing appropriate about it. Those who hate the ending, and there may be many, might be asked to dictate a different one. Something bittersweet, perhaps? Grandly tragic? Only madness can supply a termination for this story.
The movie is very loosely based on Oil!, Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel about a corrupt oil family based so loosely, you can see the film, read the book and experience two different stories. Anderson's character is a man who has no friends, no lovers, no real partners and an adopted son that he exploits mostly as a prop. Plainview comes from nowhere, stays in contact with no one, and when a man appears claiming to be his half-brother, it is not surprising that they have never met before. Plainview's only goal in life is to become enormously wealthy, and he does so, reminding me of "Citizen Kane" and Mr. Bernstein's observation, "It's easy to make a lot of money, if that's all you want to do is make a lot of money."