There Will be Blood (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Paul Thomas Anderson has made a few of my most-watched movies of the last decade. Before “There Will Be Blood” Anderson was most widely-known for 1997’s “Boogie Nights” in which rising star Mark Wahlberg took on the role that literally made him a star. “Boogie Nights” was and still is a great movie and I think was far ahead of its time and it showed the true power of Anderson as both a writer and director. This was followed a few years later with the very unique “Magnolia” about a family with loosely interweaving stories and a character study in the most extreme form. Anderson’s script gave Tom Cruise another Oscar nomination and though the movie polarized viewers, I still find it intriguing. His 2002 film “Punch Drunk Love” will most likely be remembered for one thing: getting Adam Sandler to actually act. Sandler, usually known for his slapstick comedy roles took on a much darker character here and with very good results. Any director that can put an edge on Adam Sandler is someone to take note of for sure. So it’s with his latest work that Anderson was finally recognized for his current and past efforts. “There Will Be Blood” is an off-beat movie for Anderson, one that still deals with family but set against the backdrop of the turn of the 20th century oil prospectors. It garnered Daniel Day-Lewis his second Academy Award and was nominated for Best Picture as well. How good is it, you ask?

We meet Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a struggling silver miner in 1898. He learns that there’s more money in oil and when a young man comes to him and makes him an offer he can’t refuse, he and his son (Dillon Freasier) pack up and move to Little Boston, California. Daniel makes outlandish promises to the citizens, promising to build churches and schools that will help the townspeople. All the while, the promise of oil is making him rich and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. As his wealth increases, so does his desire to see others fail and his controlling nature gets the best of him. He abandons his son after an accident that leaves him deaf and even murders those that lie to him. A nice man he isn’t, but I have to venture that people like this existed during this time period and this was the way things got done and fortunes were made. The story follows Daniel’s rise to power an the ensuing results of his actions towards others. We’re led to believe that he’s Howard Hughes, though his inner-demons might eventually get the best of him.

“There Will Be Blood” is a most interesting and intriguing movie and I fully agree with it’s nomination for Best Picture. I think the winner, “No Country for Old Men” was the right choice, but at the very least this really put writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson on the map. Anderson’s way of telling a story is unlike anyone else’s out there and his choice of music is as much a character in the movie as anything else. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, another well-deserved nod to the movie. At nearly two and a half hours, the movie does take a considerable investment but Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is one of the better I’ve seen in quite some time. Fans of Anderson will love this latest effort and I can only hope it’s not another five years until his next feature.

Video: How does it look?

“There Will be Blood” marks one of the initial Blu-ray (wave two) releases by Paramount. Obviously anxious to still cash in on the film’s critical acclaim, the 2.40:1 HD VC-1 image makes the most of the screen and the majority of the color palette used contains many earthy tones. I noticed, almost immediately, the difference between this Blu-ray version and the standard DVD that I reviewed a month or so ago. The muddiness that was associated with the standard DVD is no more, instead we have a crystal clear image. Edge enhancement is gone and I noticed that the black levels seemed more appropriately tuned giving the image a better contrast than the standard DVD counterpart. Everything about this Blu-ray transfer is better and unfortunately the HD DVD never saw the light of day, but never fear “There Will be Blood” looks positively amazing.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack found on the standard DVD has been replaced by an uncompressed Dolby TrueHD track that does add a bit more depth to the film. I remember noting that I wasn’t really that impressed with the 5.1 track and, granted, this uncompressed track helps but if there’s not much to begin with, then it’s hard to make something out of nothing. That said, vocals seemed about the same but what I did notice were some nuances in a few key scenes (namely in the early scenes when the oil well is gushing) that did add another element to the track. On the whole, I still found the audio a bit disappointing, but in a character study such as this, it takes a back seat to what’s going on on-screen.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This Blu-ray edition contains the same amount of supplements that the two-disc DVD did, nothing more or less. We get a few deleted and extended scenes are shown and mixed in are the teaser and theatrical trailer. Most noteworthy is a vintage documentary on oil produced by the U.S. Government that runs 26 minutes. It’s been updated with a new score and educates the viewer on the process to drill for and process oil. I was disappointed by the lack of a commentary track as Anderson has given some good ones in the past. Perhaps when a more robust edition comes out, we’ll get one of those.

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