There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood Study Guide

There Will be Blood is often referred to as a film adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, but it's far from a direct adaptation. The names of the characters in the film do not correspond to those in the book, and the events in the novel that make it into the movie end about 100 pages into Sinclair’s 500-plus page tome. But thematically, the film does hew quite closely to Sinclair's 1927 novel, because at the heart of both narratives is a historical examination of the rise of crude oil as the dominant natural resource of civilization in the 20th century, coupled with a corrosive critique of capitalism and religion. The film ties these two critiques together more tightly than Sinclair does in his novel to produce a narrative whose devastating moral is contained in the title: essentially, the film provides a historical elucidation behind every drop of blood that has been shed as a result of the now-inextricable intertwining of economic and religious interests in controlling the supply of the finite amount of oil buried deep within the earth.

By the time director Paul Thomas Anderson had finished transforming Sinclair’s novel into the basis for his own critique of the inevitable consequences of the confluence of oil, money and religion, he had created a film that would be named the best movie of the first decade of the 21st century by many top critics. Despite its widespread critical acclaim, only two of the eight Academy Award nominations extended to There Will be Blood earned trophies: Best Actor and Best Cinematography.
That award for Best Actor went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview. Day-Lewis is on screen for all but a couple of quick scenes and dominates the film in a way comparable to some of the most domineering and memorable lead performances in film history, such as Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

The film premiered at Fantastic Fest in September 2007 and was released commercially in December that same year. It earned $76 million against a $25 million budget. It was later shown at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, where Anderson won the Silver Bear Award for Best Director. In 2017, the film was ranked as the best film of the 21st century by New York Times film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis.