For some strange and obscene reasoning I can't really explain, I had never seen this film prior to my recent viewing. Needless to say I feel shame in admitting that. Especially since Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for Best Actor, the film itself was up for Best Picture (losing to No Country For Old Men), and Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) was up for Best Director (losing to the Coen brothers for No Country For Old Men). But somehow, some way, this movie was lost in the streams of endless viewings for the past 13 years, and I never saw it pop back up until recently. I was doing what I do best: wasting my prime years of life surfing the internet while eating Cheetos (not an ad) when I came across an article about Denis Villenueve's top 20 films.
I LOVE Denis Villenueve and all the work he's done. Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 are all impeccable works of art. Not to mention he's helming the upcoming Dune remake which probably has the greatest cast since, what 12 Years a Slave?1 Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, JAVIER BARDEM I mean the list goes on and on...
Ah apologies I've gotten a little off topic; Dune just gets me amped. Back to the article, it references that Villenueve mentioned There Will Be Blood all the way back in a 2017 NYT interview. He says of the movie, "There are specific shots that went directly through my skull, like a bullet spreading particles of my brain on my walls." And when Denis Villenueve makes that kind of a metaphor, you watch the movie he's talking about. Luckily for me it was on Netlix (also not an ad).
To this day I'm not certain why I love non-verbal intro sequences so much, but I find it captivating that an actor/director can go about their business, have no dialogue, yet tell you everything you need to know about their beginnings. Daniel Plainview's (Daniel Day-Lewis) introduction to the viewer does exactly that, where we see him just toiling in silver mines trying to make some money. A chaotic string of events transpire that lead him in search of a better life looking for oil. One thing leads to another, and he's on his way to becoming the almighty "oil man".
In the aforementioned quote from Villenueve, he's referring to one particular shot where one of Plainview's workers has his son with him at the oil well. As he's dumping oil brought up from the well into a shallow pool (I assume for some sort of shipping later but I myself am not an "oil man"), he squats down and dips his thumb into the pool of black. Retracting his dripping appendage, he then baptizes his son in his arms, with the oh so holy viscous liquid. Not to be a shameless Villenueve follower, but he's spot-on with this scene. Baptizing this baby in oil sends a message for the whole plot of the film and for the trajectory of the characters. Our subjects adhere to a religion based on scouring the country for oil. It's a blind search for the hidden treasure troves of bubbling oil that can provide a brand new life for whoever finds it, an ascenscion of monetary and social stature.
Not to mention...
Wait, hold on. In the wise words of Hopster, spoilers aplenty. Let me give you some spaces here, because you really should watch this movie without expecting what's going to happen...
Maybe put a random gif in here too idk.
Okayyy, so what I was saying was: not to mention, the boy that gets baptized in oil quickly becomes Plainview's "adopted son" when his father gets crushed by a broken beam in the oil well. No matter what exorbitant wealth oil can give you, it can take so much more. The oil giveth, and the oil taketh. Daniel Plainview, similar to transitioning from silver to oil, sees an opportunity to upgrade his business model. He uses his new son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), to put on this charade of being a family man in order to pry away fertile land from its owners to begin drilling for oil.
In moving from silver to oil, the nonliteral but actually literal baptism, and Plainview's exploitation of this orphaned boy turned business tool, we can see Plainview is obsessed and I mean obessessed with acquiring wealth and power by any means necessary. His intentions are reaffirmed when Plainview abandons his deafened son after he comes into a meeting with his estranged half-brother Henry (Kevin J. O'Connor).
But once again, we are reminded of greed taking much more than it can provide. As the closer relationship with Henry proves to be fraudulent, Plainview murders him. Also, he buries him in a tomb with oil seeping through the walls of dirt... which of course is just about as ironic as it gets.
Like oil raging to the surface of a freshly drilled well, Daniel's inner demons of greed and desire erupt to the surface during his journey to wealth.
This film is a true rollercoaster ride of action and consequence, not to mention superb acting and direction. As Plainview, Daniel Day-Lewis is of course unbelievably outstanding. He's powerful, emotional, deadly, magnetic and I'm running out of superlatives to hand to him. He is truly on another plane of existence as an actor.
Speaking of excellent actin,g we as a world need to acknowledge the masterful performances of Paul Dano, who plays the preacher Eli and his twin brother Paul. He is truly a chameleon, he is AMAZING IN EVERYTHING. His sermon to get the Devil out of the woman in the church is something to write home about. Captivating. Let’s not forget him in Prisoners as well, and I can’t WAIT for his Riddler in Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
What this all boils down to is my incompetence as a "film man". How in the living, breathing, effervescent discombobulated world we live in is this the first time I've seen this movie?????? I can say I absolutely agree with Villenueve putting this so high on his list of top movies, declaring it one of the greatest movies of the 21st Century. This is a masterpiece and I implore everyone to take part in a viewing, that is if you haven't already since apparently I am way beyond fashionably late. I'm just late. Oh so very late.
Given what Villenueve described this film as I knew I needed a beverage as powerful and as potent as the performances within the movie. Oh lordy did I find the correct one. As dark as the oil seeping from the crevices of the Earth, Thor's Equinox proved to be a formidable drink.
Much like the god of thunder Thor, Daniel Day-Lewis' performance is electric and booming. The Odin Brewing Company basically bottled up this movie and put it in a beer, it was exquisite. Smooth as ever, enjoyable, yet strong and filled with that excellent Belgian dark strong ale flavor brimming with warmth and that malty finish.
If I could walk outside and start digging to pull some of this beautiful liquid up from the depths of the soil, well then you better start calling me an "oil man".
Odin Brewing Company Strong Ale - Belgian Dark | 9%