I began writing this with Magnolia in mind and after I finished all five points, I realised I was denying myself the truth – if one PTA film is to be chosen for this feature, it’s There Will Be Blood. Upon finishing it, I’m not so sure now.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis
If you’re a purist, the first thing you’ll think of is the director. For everyone else, it’s Daniel Day-Lewis. Bringing us possibly the greatest performance of his career as Daniel Plainview, I’m yet to meet someone who wasn’t suitably impressed. For a long time I was convinced Frank T.J Mackey [Tom Cruise - Magnolia] was the greatest character from Anderson’s universe; but it’s Plainview by a mile. Watch it again if you’re unsure. The opening mute scene where he attends to the newly orphaned child says a million things. Where a million actors would need words to accompany their actions, Day-Lewis speaks volumes about his character just by sitting next to the child and offering him a drink. And that’s not to forget the bloody ending ...
2. “I drink your milkshake!”
... where the proverbial shit hits the metaphorical fan. It’s arguably the greatest scene of the film (a film that was declared as the best of its decade), where Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) comes back to Plainview, begging for guidance as the lamb that’s lost his sheppard. Sitting down on the chair and trying his best to hold back tears he’s the very meaning of desperation and still he’s prioritising politeness over questioning. Plainview has other things on his mind, shouting “DRAINAGE!” repeatedly, oblivious to the drool dripping out of the corner of his mouth. I won’t spoil the milkshake reference if you haven’t seen it. Needless to say, watch this 152-minute beast without interruption (yes, that means no tweeting).
3. Paul Thomas Anderson
Emerging as one of the most promising filmmakers of recent times simply because he made Adam Sandler look good, Anderson (PTA) is yet to put a foot wrong. Speaking from a point of naivety soon after Magnolia was released, declaring it’ll “probably be the best film I make” he outdid himself completely with Blood. He understands constant cutaways don’t make great films and isn’t afraid to let the camera linger longer than it should be. He elicits the kind of performances other directors wish they were capable of and with the upcoming The Master he’s about to – if not already – claim his right as one of the greatest directors to have ever graced celluloid.
4. The oil explosion scene
Coming in around the one-hour mark it’s not just the explosion that makes this scene so important – it is what’s happening around it that makes it so. An oil burst results in his son H.W going deaf as he’s so close to the source and Plainview does his best to monitor his condition but his oil tower is now alight so he has more important things on his mind. The sight of the burning tower is a beautiful thing to behold and was shot near the production location for No Country For Old Men, resulting in a halt of filming because the smoke travelled so far across to their site it was getting in the way.
5. The soundtrack
Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead composed most of the soundtrack and it’s the perfect complement to the gradually building momentum of the film and Plainview’s worrying obscureness. Only this soundtrack makes an ordinary field the most life threatening thing in their lives.
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire