Over the weekend, I saw the movie There Will Be Blood, the Oscar-nominated film about an oilman who gets his start at the turn of the 20th century. The movie opens with Daniel Day-Lewis’s character standing in a shallow mine shaft, hacking away at a rock wall with a pick-axe. And do you know what the first thing I thought was?
“Yeef! No eye protection!”
Yes, really, that’s the first thing I thought: no eye protection, and no helmet. I guess I’m well into modern sensibilities. But, hey, the man’s asking for trouble. And, indeed, he does get injured, but not from flying pieces of rock: he falls and breaks his leg.
And that’s the entry of Daniel Plainview into the business of turning things in the ground into money. The plot outline on IMDB says it’s a story about “family, greed, religion, and oil.” The “blood” in the title is a reference to all of those, metaphorically, as well as to the real blood that was shed in those rough and dangerous times. Based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, the story is a literary tragedy, well told and well acted — excellently acted, as we expect from the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Ciarán Hinds. (And given the focus of Sinclair’s The Jungle and King Coal, it’s not surprising that work-related injuries figure prominently in the story.)
And yet, with all that, I can’t say that I liked the movie that much. In that, of course, I know I’ll put myself in the minority. The acting is certainly wonderful, and I found some of the story compelling. But I also thought that the film was too long for the story, and that Daniel Plainview seemed like a caricature by the end (indeed, by the midpoint, to tell the truth).
A moviegoer in the row behind me commented, as he left, that he hoped to forget that he ever saw this movie. I won’t go nearly that far: I think I’m glad I saw it, and I certainly liked aspects of it. I just can’t say that I liked the movie as a whole.