More oil and sweat than passion and ideas course through There Will Be Blood, a film about the California petroleum boom of the early 20th century that is as anemic as it is ambitious. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted a rise-and-fall film of the least imaginative kind. From 1898 through the Roaring '20s, the central character, Daniel Plainview, achieves towering financial success. Morally he scrapes the bottom of the barrel.
With Daniel Day-Lewis as this monomaniacal oil baron, the central character, who is also nearly the only character, should have some heft. But Day-Lewis gives a go-for-broke performance that ends up just plain broke. His interpretation of a man who mistrusts everything except the work of his own hands may be "bold and honest," "full of integrity" and all the other phrases that get trotted out reflexively for this often-brilliant actor.
There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage) Starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Rated R. Time 158 minutes.