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There Will Be Blood (2007)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/8/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/25/2008

Before I proceed, allow me to reiterate an old adage: everyone has an opinion. Now, having said that, of the movies that I see, I watch over 99% of them on DVD. Thus, most have played on theaters before I can check them out. And, as such, they have been reviewed by critics and the public alike. I typically try to avoid reading too much about movies which I haven't seen, but hearing opinions about a movie can often be unavoidable. And every once in a while, I will hear what the majority of people think about a movie (be it positive or negative) and then, when I see it, my reaction is "What movie did they see?" Sometimes when I get a DVD to review, I feel as if I've been "Punk'd" and I'm not seeing the same movie that everyone else did. That was certainly my reaction to the severely overrated There Will Be Blood.

There Will Be Blood tells the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). As the film opens, we see Daniel mining for gold (by himself). Once he finds gold, he expands his mine, and he suddenly strikes oil, and thus, with the help of more men, begins to extract the oil. An accident takes the life of the one of the men, so Daniel takes custody of the man's son, H.W. (played for most of the film by Dillon Freasier) (We never learn if Daniel actually adopts H.W.) As Daniel's luck increases with his business, he takes on investors and seeks to buy more land. He is approached by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), who informs him that the town of Little Boston, California has oil and that he should buy his family's ranch. Daniel and H.W. travel there, inspect the land, and do indeed buy it and begin to drill. This endeavor will leave a lasting impression on the small community, where commerce, religion, and family all attempt to co-exist.

There Will Be Blood comes from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, and I've now seen four of the five feature films which he's made. (I haven't seen Hard Eight.) Having seen 80% of his movies qualifies me to say that I'm not a fan of Anderson's work, with Boogie Nights being the only one of his movies which I'd even consider re-watching. It's clear that Anderson is no slouch; he obviously puts a lot of work into his movies. A great deal of attention is paid to the music, the cinematography, and the production design, and given the running times of his films, editing them can't be easy. But, his movies lack true emotion and this is the main problem which I had with There Will Be Blood.

With There Will Be Blood, Anderson has clearly tried to make the kind of epic film which would be more at home during the 1950s. The 158-minute running time, the huge cast, and the expansive outdoor settings hint of a film which wants to be viewed in "Cinerama!". But, for all of the cinema happening here, there is very little to draw in the audience. For starters, despite the long running time, the movie really has very little story. Daniel begins his career as an oil-man, moves to California, and becomes increasingly belligerent. That’s really about it.

Now, within this framework, Anderson could have focused on one of two stories. There Will Be Blood could have been a historical drama which told the story of oil exploration in the early part of the 20th century and the toll it took on those who dared try it. Or, it could have been a character study where we see how Daniel’s obsession drives away everyone around him and ruins his life. There Will Be Blood wants to be about both of those things, and yet, it’s about neither. The movie tells us nothing about oil drilling and actually makes it seems like a very mundane undertaking. Even when disaster strikes a well, it’s all taken in stride. The film further disappoints by never allowing us to get close to Daniel. At the outset, he seems like someone who is merely a determined businessman. The fact that he takes H.W. under his wing actually makes him seem like a nice guy. But, as the film progresses, Daniel becomes very obstinate and often violent. It’s very easy to assume that the pressure of the job drove him to this, but it seems very sudden. So, we have a character who we don’t really get to know, who grows more and more unlikable as the film progresses.

Did I say that film progresses? That’s an overstatement. Anderson certainly takes his time with the non-action in the film, and his manipulation of time doesn’t help the film. Scenes drag on and on with nothing significant happening, and then suddenly the movie will leap ahead a few years. The movie never builds any suspense, tension, or drama, because nothing in it is consistent. Anderson wastes the running time by never building to anything. The music by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood doesn’t help, as most of it doesn’t fit the scene. (I understand that some of the music was pre-existing, so this may not be Greenwood’s fault.)

And now for the two most overrated facets of this overrated movie. Does Daniel Day-Lewis deliver a good performance. Of course he does. He’s in nearly every scene of the film and he truly creates a character here, with his slumped appearance and deliberate walk. But, again, we get so little emotion from Daniel Plainview that the acting hardly feels Oscar-worthy. Sure, he yells and slaps people in a few scenes, but I never felt that I got to know him. And as for the “I drink your milkshake scene”...what the hell? For those who haven’t seen the film, it comes at the very end, so be prepared to wait for it. And the line makes about as much sense as you think it would and it sounds like something which was made up on the spot. “Hey, you know what would be kooky? Say, ‘I drink your milkshake’”. “But, he doesn’t have a milkshake.” “Trust me, it’s art.”

There Will Be Blood is yet another film which makes me wonder how so many people can mistake tedium for entertainment. This is one of those films which feels important, so viewers think that they must praise it. This is also one of those movies which won’t mean much in a few years.

There Will Be Blood didn’t come with a milkshake on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Much of the movie takes place in a brightly lit desert-like location. The fact that these scenes show very little grain is a testament to this transfer. And yet, some shots really lack in detail and subtle pixellation can be seen around the actor’s faces. The image doesn’t show any defects from the source material and the picture is never overly bright. The film has an intentional washed out look, but the colors which do pop up look fine. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, and the fire scene offers some very nice stereo and subwoofer effects. However, the surround sound effects are very subtle and intermittent during this scene, as well as the rest of the movie.

All of the extras on the There Will Be Blood 2-disc set are found on Disc 2. "15 Minutes" (16 minutes) is subtitled "Pics, Research, etc." and is a series of pictures, text, and historical films which Anderson used as inspiration for the film. "Fishing" (6 minutes) and "Haircut/Interrupted Hymn" (3 minutes) are both DELETED SCENES. The first shows a problem with the well and a conversation between Daniel and Abel Sunday. The second has a moment between Daniel and H.W. "Dailies Gone Wild" (3 minutes) is a long take of Day-Lewis...and I'm not sure what the point of it is supposed to be. We get both the TEASER and the TRAILER here. "The Story of Petroleum" (26 minutes) is a silent film from the 1920s which educates the viewer on how oil is found and processed. This is presented in a 1.33:1 format.

On June 3, 2008, Paramount Home Entertainment released There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray Disc.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps.  The image here is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain, nor any defects from the source material.  This film is a clash of lights and darks.  The exteriors and very clear and appropriately bright, and the colors look good.  The interior scenes are full of shadows, but the image is never overly dark.  The image shows no indications of overt video noise or artifacting.  The Blu-ray has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps.  This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The stereo effects are quite good and the music shows an especially nice separation in the front channels.  The "oil gusher" scenes offers some nice subwoofer effects (we feel as if we are there) and the fire scene offers a nice amount of surround sound.  Technically, this is a very solid transfer all around.  If only I'd liked the movie more.

The Blu-ray Disc contains the same extra features as the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long