There Will Be Blood: Film Review

Drilling Rig at NightThere Will Be Blood is a 2007 American drama written and directed by Paul Thomas. The film stars Daniel Day Lewis, who won the Oscar for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview. The film itself won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Cinematography and was nominated for six more Oscars, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, making it one of the most successful oil industry films in history.

There Will Be Blood covers the tale of oil discovery and drilling in the United States. The film takes place during the late 1800s into the early 1900s and tells the story of oilman Daniel Plainview, who travels to Little Boston, California to purchase land to drill for oil and grow his oil empire. He meets with townspeople and landowners to discuss purchasing their land and what he and his workers aim to do on their property in terms of oil discovery. Plainview’s hard work and relentless land and oil rights acquisitions lead him to success and wealth.

The movie highlights the dangers of oil drilling during a time when drilling equipment and techniques were not as advanced as they are today, both in technology and safety. In the film’s opening scene, Plainview is seen lowering himself down into a well he is digging by hand. Plainview, alone, falls to the bottom of the well where he becomes injured and unable to stand, but finds rock containing precious minerals. As the well begins to produce oil, we witness the pulley system, consisting of a large log with ropes and wheels covering the opening of the well, collapse and fall to the bottom of the well, crushing and killing the workers inside.

One of the workers who dies in the well left behind a son, who Plainview then adopts as his own. Later in the movie, when Plainview’s son is an adult, we learn that Plainview only took the boy in so that he would seem like a “family man” and landowners would be more likely to sell them their drilling rights.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is how it shows the evolution of the oil industry and oil drilling technology in the United States. As the movie progresses, we see how oil production evolves from extracting oil and digging wells by hand to the use of more modern technology such as the  steam-powered well.

The title of the movie becomes more and more fitting as the story progresses. Plainview also kills or betrays characters throughout the movie to acquire their land while many characters meet grim outcomes in the drilling process. Unfortunately, both are reflections of the time. Anyone involved in the oil industry in some form would do well to watch There Will Be Blood, and understand how far the industry has come.

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