Going into this film I had unashamedly high expectations with director Paul Thomas Anderson having previously made both ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Boogie Nights’, in a four film career which had never fallen short of at least highly interesting. Both of these films in particular were sprawlingly epic masterpieces that encompassed a whole gamut of emotions over lengthy running times. Anderson was undoubtedly a modern auteur and I’d been reliably informed that There Will Be Blood was going to be his best film yet. Undeserved hype? Without question no, this film truly is a tour de force and a stunning success all round. Acting, cinematography, a soundtrack from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and storyline all combine to produce a work that is breathtaking in audacity and gripping to watch.

While equally epic in scope to the previous two films I have mentioned, There Will Be Blood, is a much more singular take on the beginnings of the oil industry in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Through focusing on one man’s rise to power, Daniel Plainview (the extraordinary Daniel Day Lewis), we see just how dark the human soul can go against a backdrop of stunning American scenery and religion versus capitalist ideals. The movie begins with a wordless first twenty minutes which glories in untold exposition- harking back to the excellence of the silent films made from the era in which the film is set. Finding Plainview as a lone prospector, digging for oil with little care for his own safety and plenty more concern for furthering his own power and prosperity. A working accident leaves him with an orphan child, H.W- the motivation for this act of selflessness only becoming clear towards the finale- to look after and soon a burgeoning wealth from his trade, accurately justifying his self-proclamation, “I am an Oilman”. Soon finding himself in Little Boston and buying up a whole community to drill their land for oil, Plainview meets the one character that can contest his domination over proceedings in Paul Dano’s evangelical preacher, Eli Sunday. Appearing from time to time to assert an apparently devout religious authority over the industrialist aspirations of Plainview.

In it’s portrayal of Plainview’s descent from supposedly moralistic family man to a man who confesses to hating most people, the film could be seen as a metaphor for how capitalism has overcome religion to be the dominant force of America. However, religion doesn’t come off much better as Eli is also shown to be a self serving man, using God to further his own influence over Little Boston. Every opportunity for redemption is scuppered by Plainview and our protagonist’s tale is portrayed in an unflinching, brutal, evocative and always captivating manner.

Matching this work is Day-Lewis, a spectacular performance from an actor always to be relied upon for total commitment to his roles- surrounded by a supporting cast who have rarely ever been better. Day Lewis appears to have lost himself completely in delivering a character of unparalleled fierceness- creating a voice of immense gravitas and eyes of burning intensity. He is a dark, dark man but always compelling. His character’s anger growing, “over the years, little by little”, until a finale that acts as almost an explosive release from the anger and tension that has built up over the previous two hours.

‘There Will Be Blood’, is unarguably an amazing film- tough to watch at times although never less than an irrefutably astounding piece of cinema. If you’re looking for an easy couple of hours of popcorn entertainment then you may well do yourself a favour to look elsewhere. If, however, you like to be challenged enough to view an experience that is a feast for all the senses then seek out this staggering piece of filmmaking.