If you didn’t get to see this movie at the cinema, and I include myself in that statement, its appearance on DVD and Blu-ray is a welcome opportunity to experience one of the best dramas of 2007.
Having seen it now I can assert that Daniel Day-Lewis is now well beyond the ‘I’m done with acting’ bullshit and firing on all cylinders in this film. He has a remarkable technique for being in the centre of every scene even if he doesn’t utter a word, and when he does, the celluloid rips at that point and suck the audience into another dimension, he’s that good here.
There Will Be Blood is very tentatively based on a 1927 novel by Upton Sinclair about the origins of the Californian oil industry, and the unique personalities that drove the wheels of this industry. One of these is the conniving Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who manipulates the local landowners in a style that would make Dick Dastardly seem mild by comparison. His path to obscene riches is an open highway until into it walks the irascible Minister Eli Sunday played by Paul Dano.
Dano’s biggest part so far was in Little Miss Sunshine, but he’s a strong foil for Mr Day-Lewis in this. Soon it becomes an open battle for the hearts, minds and wealth of the poor people of the small town of Little Boston, with no holds barred or quarter given. If you like your drama taut, paced to a rise from a single note into a deafening crescendo, this movie is for you.
Now I’ve sold the tickets, what’s the presentation like? As you expect with a Blu-ray billing the transfer is good, but actually it’s another that’s going to get tarred with he overly used ‘reference disc’ label. I’ve seen the DVD released earlier in the year, and it’s murky and indistinct in comparison. It’s easy to argue that a clean 35mm print is superior, but the colour representation in this title is exceptional. What it really sells is the natural lighting used for exterior shots and the warmth it imparts to the scrub locations.
Curiously the sound is a little minimalist considering its 5.1 Dolby, but that’s not a quality issue it’s just that in audio terms this isn’t an ideal subject for audio production. But I’ve concluded this doesn’t need to have a Saving Private Ryan audio track to tell the story, and in that respect its subtlety is entirely justified.
What’s included as extras is interesting but hardly definitive, suggesting they’ve got a special edition ready for Christmas or whenever. They chucked a couple of deleted /alternative scenes on here, a source material documentary of just 15 minutes and the theatrical trailers. The most unusual extra is The Story of Petroleum, a 26 minute silent movie about getting oil from the ground which I initially thought had been made in the silent movie style by an overly enthusiastic production team. But it turns out to be a period piece, which explains the oil extraction process used at the time. Those looking for director or technical commentaries will be disappointed as it’s bare of these things, sadly.
Overall, this is an excellent movie and good transfer, but the extras are generally weak by comparison.