Written by El Fangorio
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), is one evil S.O.B. His quick rise from poor prospector to oil baron has left many a casualty in his wake. He is the type of man who will exploit a child (newcomer Dillon Freasier), claiming him to be his son, to get families to trust him. And once this child becomes a burden, he will move along and find another face to use. He will take advantage of your generosity, trust, and lack of knowledge and when it comes time for payback, he will still drive you into the dirt. He will admit to wrongdoing only to gain back trust, and then when the time is right, he will remind you how foolish you were to believe him.
Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) is a preacher man but is no less corrupt than Plainview. He also has dollar signs in his eyes and when Plainview comes to offer his “help”, he jumps at the chance to make a profit. Under the guise of building a church, his demands for riches far exceed his needs and his delusions of grandeur blur the line between divine intervention and personal gain. He will use his faith to gain support but if given the opportunity to fatten his pockets with a non-believer, he will denounce it without hardly any hesitation.
It is when these two men converge that we are given the timeless epic struggle of Evil against Evil; Money vs. Religion; Oil vs God. No different now than it was over a hundred years ago when this film takes place, the themes at hand are played out with The Good being caught in the crossfire.
An exercise in filmmaking gone by, There Will Be Blood’s deliberate pacing reminded us that it wasn’t that long ago that films weren’t edited with a Cuisinart. Like Kubrick’s before him, Paul Thomas Anderson’s camera lingers on scenes for minutes on end before cutting away, leaving its imagery burned into your memory. His precise mastering of light evokes the past works of Zsigmond, Almendros, and Willis. And like Scorsese, he still accomplishes originality while channeling the masters. The church construction from McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the nocturnal blaze from Days of Heaven, even the bucket spill from Carrie is on hand for those keen enough to notice. It opens like 2001, with its dissolve into landscape and when the titular promise is finally fulfilled, we are reminded of the same film and early man’s first attack with the animal bone.
When There Will Be Blood was released on standard DVD back in April, it made many a reviewer’s top pick for best transfer to date. It set the bar for image resolution which was no easy feat considering the elements used during the filming. It was released as two different editions, a film-only single-disc edition and a Special Collector’s edition with a second disc of special features. Many special collectors were disappointed to find that the second disc consisted of only an hour of supplements, 30 minutes of which being a B&W vintage documentary on oil. The rest of the goods consisted of a slideshow, two trailers, and three deleted scenes. That’s it. As SD consumers await the inevitable release of a quadruple-disc edition (and this film warrants one), will the Blu-ray camp get it right the first time out? And can the already near-perfect image even be improved on? It’s a mixed answer of no (sigh) and YES (!!!).
Ring the double-D alert; we have here a 'demo disc.' This is the one you pop in the player when you want to show off the "miracle of Blu-ray" to friends and neighbors. Hell, this one makes you want to show strangers too. They say that great high definition sometimes results in the image appearing to come off the screen, like 3-D without the aid of special glasses. There are multiple instances in which the film achieves this.
As early as the opening scene of Plainview’s excavating a near-pitch mine, the sparks caused by his pickaxe almost look dangerous. Candlelit faces, surrounded by total darkness, appear to hover like ghosts and you almost feel guilty for not helping out with some of the ropes that seemingly float up and down the screen.
The sound is also an improvement in that, unlike its standard counterpart, it comes uncompressed via 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. This might not be as obvious in its many dialogue scenes but it does play a big factor in some of the louder scenes. Oil gushers cause many a jump while Jonny Greenwood’s shrieking strings jangle the nerves appropriately. And when the film is silent, it is true silence without the hiss that comes with compressed audio.
As for the special features, they are the exact same as the standard release. No joke. 50 gigs of memory available on a Blu-ray disc and they fill it with less than a gig of material. One good thing is that, except for the slideshow, all of the supplements are presented in high-def, something we will soon be taking for granted but for now, really does make a difference when viewing special features on HD systems. And the special features themselves really aren’t that bad as all of it is beneficial to the viewer.
First off is the 1923 documentary, The Story of Petroleum. This B&W silent film, created as a promotional tool for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, chronicles the oil business during the 1920s. It’s a pretty interesting piece and I would even recommend viewing it before the film as it helps put the film in its proper context. Also serving as a reference piece is the slideshow, here titled 15 Minutes. Set to the score of the film, these various elements include vintage photographs, postcards, maps, and newspaper clippings that aided in researching the film. Images are followed by the actual scenes from the film that they inspired, proving once again the depth at which Anderson will go to achieve authenticity. The three deleted scenes, unlike most you see on other releases, are actually quite good. Had they been left in the film, you would even recall them as somewhat key scenes. Rounding out the supps is the film’s teaser and theatrical trailer.
Given the price of this Blu-ray release, there isn’t going to be many laymen that see justifying a double-dip. Supplements, though presented here in HD, are usually the deciding factor for most consumers. However, the improvement in picture quality is more than enough reason for me to recommend it because after all, isn’t image the reason you have Blu-ray? Add to this the fact that Mr. Anderson has a tendency to produce more definitive editions of his films more than a year after their initial release, and you’ve got more than enough justification to go the Blu-ray route.