If there's a screen performance in 2008 that comes anywhere near to matching Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning turn in There Will Be Blood, then we've come nowhere near to seeing it. A tour-de-force of acting and a career high for Day-Lewis, it's the highlight of an extraordinary, really quite daring piece of cinema.
That said, we've come to expect nothing less from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, the man who previously brought us Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love. However, he's really topped himself in terms of ambition with There Will Be Blood, an adaptation of Upton Sinclair's book, Oil! It follows Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) who, when we first meet him in the film's silent opening is attempting to mine silver, before he discovers oil and slowly builds up an empire off the back of it. There Will Be Blood then follows his rise to power, given the vast riches that his oil brings him, concurrently exploring his relationship with his son. It proves to be a long, complex, stunning piece of work.
There's little room in There Will Be Blood for much more than the sheer power of Day-Lewis' performance, but credit Paul Dano (last seen saying an awful lot less in Little Miss Sunshine) for attempting to go toe-to-toe with the leading man. He's a foil of sorts for Plainview, playing a man as troubled and torn as Day-Lewis' character, and it's a career high to date for the young actor. The film, too, is a match for anything Paul Thomas Anderson has done to date, and that's some achievement.
With no easy resolution, and a degree of complexity in its characters that we all-too-rarely see from modern American films, There Will Be Blood is a challenging, at times breathtaking piece of cinema. It won't be to all tastes, and it adamantly refuses to give easy answers, but it's as daring as anything you’ll see on screen all year. And Day-Lewis' performance ranks next to any of the all-time greats that you'd care to mention. --Simon Brew