The Southern California oil boom during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the basis for Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, published in 1927. Almost a century later, the movie There Will Be Blood (2007) directed, written and produced by Paul Thomas Anderson portrays much of the same sentiments from the book. Based very loosely on Sinclair’s novel, the modern day movie stars Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role of Daniel Plainview. Plainview is a prospector who discovers oil in his silver mine and the film follows him as he extracts it and sells it to become one of the largest oil tycoons of his time in California. The film also details the personal struggles he has with mining the oil and maintaining his wealth as well as focuses on his ruthless character as an oil tycoon.
However the film is about more than just the story of the oil tycoon, Daniel Plainview. The movie centers around the themes of family, religion and how they contrast with personal ideals and traits such as greed and ambition. The director wanted to tell the story of how an oil tycoon can come to be the ruthless and seemingly greedy person that he is stereotyped as and the other side of greed which is driving ambition and determination. It also highlights the conflict of religion and the two-faced self-righteousness that many people have. The film shows this through Eli, who is a religious man but manipulates Plainview into submission by coercing him with hidden knowledge. It investigates as well the family conflicts such as lack of communication that plagues many families. In the film, Plainview literally can not communicate with his son, H.W. who is deaf and learns sign language. It is a movie that shows how the line between greed and ambition can blur to create a man with good intentions who ultimately is a monster.