I have one certainty . . .
"I hate most people. I want to earn enough money so I can get away from everyone." Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in There Will Be Blood.
In 2007 I have one certainty: No one, but no one, can out act Daniel Day-Lewis, who, as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, plays a sociopath of such charisma that he evokes the ambivalence most audiences feel about Charles Foster Kane. From silver mining in 1898 to oil riches in the first quarter of the next century, Daniel tirelessly amasses fortune and loses loved ones, predictable for someone who sees people, even his own son, as a means to money, nothing else (see above quote).
Director Paul Thomas Andersen's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's Oil is too long by at least a half hour, during which even the estimable Day-Lewis gets old. But it is a biography of a great entrepreneur, as much an emblem of the wildly speculative country as it is of the independent, albeit ruthless, spirit of so many of America's self-made men of the early 20th century. In a way, I suppose, There Will Be Blood owes much of its spirit to Citizen Kane in its meticulous depiction of the rise and fall of a great man as well as shots of the lonely man in his castle later on in life.
And speaking of the film's shameless borrowing from movies, observe the uncanny imitation Day-Lewis does of John Huston's Noah Cross, from his peculiar voice to his careless treatment of those closest to him. Day-Lewis remains unique in his depiction of Plainview, yet his channeling of Huston is a joyful evocation of another artist and a remarkable film, Chinatown. Add to that allusion the similarity to father Walter Huston and the Treasure of the Sierra Madre and you can see how Andersen is an auteur to be reckoned with.
In a year when this film will be contending with No Country for Old Men for best picture, it is interesting to note that both were shot in Marfa, Texas, where Giant was also filmed. The connection among them, the lust for wealth through oil or drugs, underscores how both commodities have served well dramatists' need to show the wages of sin (there is a strong fundamentalist subtheme in Andersen's film), for which there will be blood.