"So, ladies and gentlemen, if I say I'm an oil man, you got to agree."
Some will argue that There Will Be Blood should have taken home more Oscars; how it was not only a better film than No Country for Old Men, but a more relevant one -- what with its themes of religion and greed. But it's probably best not to think about such things. We're lucky to have received two of this century's greatest films in one year, and each will be remembered for decades to come. With There Will Be Blood, the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson has given us his American epic, set in California at the turn of the 20th century. Daniel Day-Lewis (who deserves every inch of that Best Actor Oscar) plays a hungry oil prospector who'll stop at nothing (and sacrifice almost everything) to build an empire of his own. He'll soon find out that, while he most certainly has enemies, the greatest evil is not buried deep below the ground -- it's, instead, deep within him.
Plainview will probably go down as one of the more complex characters we've ever seen on film; definitely the kind of man entire debates can be built around. If he's a selfish man, why does he take in and raise an orphan? Here's a man who hates all people, and yet that family bond seems most important to him. During such lonely times, not once does Plainview seek out the loving arms of a woman -- leading some to believe he's impotent; wondering whether Anderson chose to leave a key part of the script out on purpose. Ah, but the man sure does love his oil -- and when a stranger by the name of Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) shows up with a map pointing to unspoiled land housing loads of the black stuff, Plainview can't help but take the stranger for his word and venture out to see if his tales are indeed true.
Eventually, Plainview winds up on the land of one Abel Sunday and his family, including son Eli (Dano); a passionate preacher (and healer) who cuts a deal with Plainview to sell the oil man their land for drilling on the condition that a certain amount of money will go back into Eli's Church of the Third Revelation. Thus begins a dramatic, yet often darkly-comedic game of greed between the two men -- one that will ultimately boil over onto a bowling alley where one of the year's most famous lines of dialogue will be spoken aloud. Of all the creeps and cowards throughout, perhaps the most jarring character comes in the form of Jonny Greenwood's amazing score. Sharp and unsettling; picture nails-to-chalkboard set to music ... and loving every second of it. Anderson's long-time cinematographer, Robert Elswit, once again does a tremendous job setting up the film's daunting mood; at times, it almost feels as if we're carrying the characters' heavy burdens on our shoulders -- and even so, it's beautiful to watch unfold.
If you go into this DVD looking for detailed explanations of certain shots and your typical behind-the-scenes featurettes, you will definitely be disappointed. First off, the DVD comes with no commentary track. And while I would've loved to listen to Anderson talk about the making of this film for three hours, it's almost fitting to leave it as is. The silent theme continues over to the special features, where the closest you come to anything behind-the-scenes in nature is in the form of a feature called 15 Minutes - Pics, Research, Etc. Here, scenes from the film are intercut with a slideshow of stills from the early 20th century -- all of which feature oil prospectors, citizens, towns, maps; basically, everything that was used to inspire the look of the film.
There are two deleted scenes: One is called Fishing Sequence (the men attempting to fish out some tools they lost down the hole) and Haircut/Interrupted Hymm (what appears to be a few different scenes featuring Plainview and H.W.). Dailies Gone Wild features an extended version of the scene where Plainview and H.W. are having dinner next to the Standard Oil guys. A teaser and a trailer for the film are also tacked on.
In addition to all that, also included on the special features disc is The Story of Petroleum; a B/W silent film circa 1923 that was created to teach American citizens more about the oil business. Very interesting, and if you haven't seen the film yet, I'd watch that first. It's roughly 26 minutes long, but it will definitely help you delve into this world a bit more before the feature begins.
Visually, of course, the film is absolutely stunning. There Will Be Blood is presented in widescreen and is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. Not the same as watching it in the theater, but you won't be disappointed -- this puppy is crisp. For sound, you get Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, French and Spanish. I don't think I have to tell you to make sure this DVD is at the top of your must-watch list this week.