There Will Be Blood had my love as soon as the credits rolled, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. (For those that haven’t seen it, I’ve noted where spoilers begin.) I wanted to see it again before trying to put why I liked it so much into words, and in the mean time read what reviews I could find, to perhaps get a few clues. Most of them, though, reduce the movie to little more than big ol’ Big-Business vs. little ol’ (Big-)Religion, and end up with a luke-warm if not negative review. Those I’ve read that liked the movie seemed to be in the same predicament I am— not quite sure if there’s a coherent reason why they like the movie, but by golly they do. I got the chance to see it again, though, following its DVD release, and think I can say more clearly just why I enjoyed it so much.
Those that boil the movie down to Business vs. Religion do so because they see the movie as a comment, basically, on American history; this in turn makes the movie little more than a tirade against the Big-ness of both religion and business in America, with all their hucksters and conmen, throwing in perhaps a little bit of sympathy for poor religion getting trampled by mean ol’ business. The one thing this gets right is that There Will Be Blood is an unflinching glare at what America has made of itself. It ignores, though, exactly on what grounds the two main characters of Eli and Daniel are facing off: the American Myth of the self-made man.