2007 American epic drama film There Will Be Blood was written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! In the film we follow Daniel Plainview, a rugged and ruthless oil prospector, in his quest to make it rich in the booming oil fields on the West Coast. He finds a highly lucrative oil field in a town called Little Boston thanks to a tip-off from a mysterious boy named Paul Sunday. He makes it big, but his fortunes come at a price, as he finds himself sinking into madness in self-isolation, sickened at, but never regretful of what he has become.
In the first scene of the film, we see Plainview as a younger man deep in a mine chiseling away at the walls of the shaft. He discovers a large piece of silver and climbs out of the hole, filling the site with dynamite. However, when he attempts to pull the silver and his tools up the shaft, the dynamite explodes forcing him to lose it all within the rubble. When climbing down to retrieve his prize, his ladder breaks, sending him crashing to he ground. He finds the silver piece and pushes himself down the mountain over endless rocky terrain on his back in order to make his claim. From the first scene on, we are made very aware of Plainview’s ability to put everything aside in order to succeed.
This film, released in a time period of extreme tension regarding oil and energy resources, makes a statement against the industry itself and against materialist ideals in general. Oil prices peaked in 2008 and instead of putting more effort into research concerning new forms of energy or attempting to become less reliant on oil in other ways, the United States simply created an emergency oil reserve in the Gulf of Mexico. This is speculated to be largely due to the high influence of the oil companies in various parts of the government. In other words, the separation from oil was not financially beneficial enough at the time. Much like Daniel Plainview’s business strategies, the United States disregarded any other factors in its decisions- including damages it was doing to the American people and the environment.
This film can be seen as a symbolic tale of warning to the United States. Like the film may have predicted, The United States is now isolated in the world and failing at everything other than consumption. Where Plainview’s social, familial and personal responsibilities were neglected and left to disintegrate, the United States has practiced the same neglect concerning issues such as education, racial/general equality, elimination of crime, and world relations. And still today, after conflict with our oil providing countries and instead of considering other options, we drill for oil offshore, destroying the environment directly around us. Not until our natural resources are lying, bleeding, on the ground like Paul Sunday will we finally say “I’m finished.”