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There Will Be Blood: 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD Review

There Will Be Blood movie poster There Will Be Blood

Theatrical Release: December 26, 2007 / Running Time: 158 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson / Writers: Paul Thomas Anderson (screenplay), Upton Sinclair (novel Oil!)

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Plainview), Paul Dano (Eli Sunday, Paul Sunday), Kevin J. O'Connor (Henry Brands), Ciarαn Hinds (Fletcher Hamilton), Dillon Freasier (H.W. Plainview), David Willis (Abel Sunday), Sydney McCallister (Mary Sunday), David Warshofsky (H.M. Tilford), Hans Howes (Mr. Bandy), Russell Harvard (Adult H.W.), Colleen Foy (Adult Mary Sunday)

Buy There Will Be Blood from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD • Single-Disc DVD • Blu-ray

Paul Thomas Anderson only makes a new film every few years. When he does, notice is taken. By critics and award panels, that is. The general public hasn't rushed to see what the fuss is about, even when major movie stars like Tom Cruise or Adam Sandler are involved. Humanity has spent more on attending the films of another Paul Anderson: Paul W.S. Anderson, of Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Alien vs. Predator renown.
Released at the tail end of last year, There Will Be Blood, P.T. Anderson's fifth feature film, didn't exactly change the writer-director's reputation as commercially nominal but artistically valued. It did, however, give him a career-high gross and more accolades than any previous effort.

Marking the offbeat auteur's debut adaptation, There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a self-proclaimed "oil man" with experience and persistence in the field of obtaining petroleum and profiting off it. In 1902, Plainview becomes a father when he adopts an infant boy orphaned by a crew accident. We jump to 1911, when Plainview is making rounds alongside his polite young ward, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), boasting of their "family business."

On a tip, the Plainviews head to Little Boston, California, where Daniel carefully plots to purchase the Sunday family's oil-rich ranch and lease drilling rights from all surrounding land. All goes essentially as planned for Daniel, although the Sundays' young faith-healing preacher son Eli (Paul Dano) clearly hopes the bustle of activity will benefit his congregation more than Daniel may be willing to allow.

On a train ride in 1902 America, newly-adopted infant H.W. Plainview tugs at the whiskers of his prospector-turned-oil man father (Daniel Day-Lewis). Daniel Plainview strikes a Don Corleone like pose while pitching a community his oil plans, which I guess makes his son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) the "consigliere."

A number of fairly remarkable incidents occur during Daniel's time in Little Boston, including an explosion with personal consequences, the appearance of an unknown half-brother (Kevin J. O'Connor), tense negotiations with agents from Standard Oil, and Daniel's baptism in Eli's church. None is worth detailing here and none matters as much as its effects on Daniel, our clear focus in this gripping character study.

The film succeeds in recreating a time and place in a most skillful manner. It is an era that has not been depicted much in recent cinema, but one which clearly lends itself to dramatic potential, practically all realized here in small, understated ways.
Too often, period settings introduce stuffiness, an obstacle that stands between the modern day viewer and the subjects that are supposed to interest them. That is most definitely not the case of Blood. With most of the action taking place about 100 years ago, it's not as great a stretch as the Victorian tales regularly put on film, but easily distant enough to create opportunities for disconnect. Costuming, production design, character appearances, and mannerisms all seem to reflect adequate research. But the dialogue sounds natural to our ears and the themes somehow seem even richer now than they would have at the turn of the century or in Sinclair's literary prime.

Technically, Blood is quite marvelous. Its visions of the open West surreptitiously produce strong feelings and heighten plot points that could have ended up feeling incidental. Jonny Greenwood's striking, unorthodox score emerges as perhaps the film's second biggest character; the fact that it is often at odds with the visuals keeps the viewer alert and disarmed.

Faith healer Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) throws a freshly-retrieved demon outside his Little Boston church. Daniel and Henry (Kevin J. O'Connor) have a mustachioed brother-to-mustachioed brother chat and smoke.

But, as many have already noted and others surely will, for all of Anderson and his crew's expertise, the show rests heavily on Daniel Day-Lewis, whose prowess is unquestionable here. The performance puts Daniel Plainview right near the level of Charles Foster Kane among film characters we're drawn to invest in fully and study. Day-Lewis brings an intensity and undeniable screen presence that mark every step in the proceedings. The actor's track record, having earned 4 Oscar nominations in just 18 film credits over the past 25 years, is extraordinary. But even if, like me, you don't know the performer from more than his work in the handful of movies that approached mainstream recognition, you must admit the kudos bestowed here, culminating in Day-Lewis' second Academy Award win for Best Actor in a Leading Role, are deserved.

Throughout the course of the film, Plainview gradually reveals himself to be a complicated and tortured soul. His conflicting feelings of ambition and guilt are enough to keep us glued to the screen when he's on it and, appropriately, that's nearly always. Though not as transparently villainous as his much-witnessed prior turn as gang leader Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, Day-Lewis ensures this mustachioed character is more able to instill fear in the viewer, even from the comforts of one's couch. So real and gritty a performance is it that one can't help but sympathize with Kel O'Neill, the young actor who reportedly was replaced by Paul Dano weeks into filming. The reshoots required by the recasting presumably further sharpened the acting of Day-Lewis, who is known to embody a character throughout production.

Fire shoots straight to the heavens in this shot. Hands flock to the shoulders of Daniel Plainview after his intense baptism at the Church of the Third Revelation.

Though his first appearance as a secondary character creates unnecessary confusion, the second-billed Paul Dano is spirited as Eli Sunday, a character who easily calls to mind some of today's televangelists. While he tries his best to rise to the heights of his co-star, it's an uphill battle. A hundred years ago, a person in his early twenties may have been a man, but today the age still seems like the last few laps of boyhood. It's not easy to take Dano as seriously as hoped, because he looks young, goofy, and just like the silent, angst-ridden teen we just saw in Little Miss Sunshine. If you can get over appearances (and that's not too difficult), it's easy to recognize Dano's strong work, though it's not strong enough to call overlooked for receiving only one the film's dozens of award nominations.

Stepping back to look at the big picture, There Will Be Blood is easy to label a success. It's a film that transports us to a distinct time and mentality, sweeps us up in them, and leaves us thinking and caring about it all.

With its two Oscar victories and many Top 10 List appearances still fresh in mind, There Will Be Blood comes to DVD on April 8th in a single-disc version as well as a 2-Disc Collector's Edition. As the boldface suggests, we're looking at the latter, but our critique below makes sure to compare the former. A 2-disc HD DVD was also announced with some exclusive featurettes, but it becomes one of a few planned releases that Paramount has cancelled for that now-abandoned high-definition format.

Buy There Will Be Blood: 2-Disc Collector's Edition on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 8, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 + DVD-5)
Slim "Book" Case in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Single-Disc DVD and on Blu-ray Disc


Like the director's earlier films, There Will Be Blood is visually stylized, with some lingering long shots and deliberately different framing choices. The Oscar-winning cinematography looks outstanding in the DVD's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, leaving just about no room for improvement on this format. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally satisfying, with its fine conveyance of Jonny Greenwood's haunting music, the occasional outdoor sound effect, and dialogue that's often delivered with varying degrees of force.

The closest to a making-of feature we get is "15 Minutes", which juxtaposes old research photos like this with clips from "There Will Be Blood." You need a haircut, you really need a haircut... H.W. Plainview reveals his barber potential in this deleted scene. This is the closest we get to an outtakes reel: a single shot of Daniel Day-Lewis improvising giddy rage.


Those who opt to save some cash and buy the more readily available standard DVD of There Will Be Blood get absolutely nothing extra. Those who pay the premium and purchase the 2-Disc Collector's Edition receive under an hour of supplements all relegated to the light second disc. For the third consecutive time, writer-director P.T. Anderson has opted not to provide an audio commentary, making his talkative tracks on his first two films now a minority.

First up is "15 Minutes" (actually 15:32), essentially the only making-of feature on the set.
Subtitled "Pics, Research, Etc.", this unorthodox bonus feature is a montage that showcases old photographs (and the occasional silent movie clip) that served as research and visual reference to the (intermittently-excerpted) film. Set to evocative pieces of Greenwood's score, it occasionally compels, but fails to shed much light.

Next are the impressive teaser (1:20) and trailer (2:10) used to promote There Will Be Blood in theaters almost exclusively with Daniel Day-Lewis monologuing. Like almost everything on the discs, both are gladly presented in 16x9-enhanced widescreen and full Dolby 5.1.

The following two listings can be called deleted scenes. "Fishing" (6:12) is a multi-scene sequence which details efforts of the drillers to restore order after a well cave-in, with a few more remarkable character moments interspersed. "Haircut/Interrupted Hymn" (3:15) earns its dash with what appears to be two parts. The first is clearly a short deleted scene between Daniel and son, while the second provides an alternate non-chronological edit of material that's in the film.

"Dailies Gone Wild" is 2½ minutes of deleted footage of Day-Lewis seemingly improvising in the restaurant scene.

1920s folks pump for oil in the silent short film "The Story of Petroleum." Disc 2's Special Features menu illustrates just how unusual the set's selection screens are, presumably to reflect old-time simplicity. A look at the six sides of the There Will Be Blood: Collector's Edition DVD inner case; part old leather book, part family photo album... with two discs.

Lastly, a single item secures its own listing on Disc 2's main menu. As an introductory text screen informs, The Story of Petroleum (25:30) is a silent film from the 1920s created by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the Sinclair Oil Company. It educates on the devices and methods used to obtain oil from the ground and distribute it. Like many Silent Era films, the rampant historical value makes it easy to overlook the lack of general entertainment. Thematically, it's a very appropriate inclusion, though some will find the samples supplied in "15 Minutes" sufficient.

There is nothing ordinary about the DVD's menus and packaging. Opting for absolute understatement, each disc has a single static, silent background with plain text listings and no other embellishments. As for the case, a thin cardboard slipcover holds a slim tray which resembles an old leather book. Pockets on two of the six sides hold the discs, which maintain the drab vintage color palette, while another holds three sizable paragraphs of speech from Oil! that lay the basis for the film's first dialogue.

Awesome-looking shots like this back-lit one from inside a well explain why "There Will Be Blood" won P.T. Anderson's 5-time D.P. Robert Elswit the Oscar for Best Cinematography. You too can get great-looking skin with Daniel Day-Lewis' new petroleum oil moisturizer.


Undoubtedly, a 158-minute film about an ill-tempered oil man will not be to everyone's taste. But those put off by the length, setting, hullabaloo, and title would be wise to still check out There Will Be Blood.
It appears to be one of last year's better films and is quite a bit more accessible and affecting than you might expect.

The film seems to merit a spot in your DVD collection, but which of the two concurrent releases is your better bet? Well, video & audio are excellent and I'm sure that's also true of the single-disc, so if feature presentation is your only concern and standard DVD your preferred medium, the two are equal.

If you're like me and care a lot about bonus features, your natural reaction might be to spend a few dollars and get the second disc. But this may be one of the rare situations where the included supplements add little value. Sure, the two trailers and the two deleted scenes are nice to have, and the silent oil film is enriching in a way. Still, I can't see many people wanting to revisit this material enough to summon the effort needed to do so. The nifty vintage packaging may give greater reason to opt for the Collector's Edition. If you don't care about saving shelf space or admiring a movie's presence in your collection, though, then you're probably fine saving the $5 and getting the standard edition.

Buy There Will Be Blood from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD / Single-Disc DVD

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Reviewed March 26, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 Paramount Vantage and Miramax Films, 2008 Paramount Home Entertainment.
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