In Roman Polanski's Chinatown, detective Jake Gittes became suspicious of a devious California millionaire named Noah Cross, played by the great John Huston. Dazzled by Cross's fortune, acquired by laying irrigation pipelines across LA, Gittes asked why such a rich man would want to get richer. "What can you buy that you can't already afford?"
Cross's answer was simple: "The future."
That answer would probably make sense to Daniel Plainview, the central character of There Will Be Blood, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Plainview makes his fortune tapping into "an ocean of oil" under his feet, driven by insatiable ambition.
As Plainview tries to buy up land and put in a pipeline of his own, he consults a real estate expert about the area surrounding Little Boston, California. He points to a specific spot on the map, and the expert nods: "That can be got, I'm sure." Plainview, his ravenous appetite growing with everything he consumes, asks, "Can everything around here be got?"
Curiously, it's not just greed and pipelines that Plainview and Chinatown's Cross have in common. It's the voice. Played with monstrous energy and complexity by Daniel Day-Lewis, Plainview seems possessed by the same evil spirit, rasping each line as if his throat is a chimney. He's the kind of guy who probably drinks coffee straight from the pot—and then swallows the grounds.
When we first meet Plainview, he's mining for silver. Hunting for something beautiful, he emerges with something darker, something flammable, something that stains. He calls it "gold." And barrel by barrel, he builds a hellish heaven of his own. With every achievement, his ambition grows, until it squelches the sparks of his dying conscience.
Most of the time, Plainview ...