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There Will Be Blood

The Contenders

Release date: Dec. 26 Distributor: Paramount Vantage

Paul Thomas Anderson received screenwriter noms for “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” and “There Will Be Blood” puts him in contention for another. But there the similarities to his past work end.

Unlike his original screenplays, Anderson here turns to Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!” He also leaves behind the contempo terrain of the ensemble drama for which he’s known to offer a psychological study of a driven, homicidal oil prospector who doesn’t let the love of friends or family stand in the way of his control of the turn-of-the-

century California landscape. If Anderson has given up the big tapestry, he matches it here — and then some — with the big portrait.

Daniel Day-Lewis displays so much furious gravitas that he recalls the onscreen work of John Huston, who as an actor was never called upon to carry a movie, at least not to the degree that Day-Lewis does here. He fills almost every scene. Nominated three times before in the lead actor category, and having won once (for “My Left Foot”), Day-Lewis seems likely to grab a fourth nom.

If Anderson has gone linear with his storytelling, everything else about “There Will Be Blood” has the look and sound of an epic. Day-Lewis’ grand perf is matched in scale by Robert Elswit’s cinematography, which sets blazing oil derricks against the widest possible open spaces, and Jonny Greenwood’s musical compositions almost become another character in the film. Think Bernard Herrmann and “Taxi Driver,” another portrait of a twisted soul, with sound effects and music to match.

Other notable work includes that of supporting players Paul Dano as the determined preacher and Kevin J. O’Connor as a new arrival with a secret.

See photos, trailer and more on ‘There Will Be Blood’

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