There Will Be Blood (2007), written by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a film that follows a character’s quest to become rich in the oil trade in early 1900s California.
- Draft Read: Final Shooting Script
- Type: Shooting
- Page Count: 130
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): California
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple years
- Genre(s): Epic, Western
- Theme(s): Greed, Religion, Family, Murder, Entrepreneurship
- Protagonist Change: None
The first script I ever wrote centered around a real estate deal for an improvable piece of land in my home State of Massachusetts. I abandoned it after roughly 30 pages. Why? It took thirty pages just to establish what the real estate deal would be in regard to; far too slow. There Will Be Blood has similar beats but is always moving. After the first five pages, which introduce us to Daniel and showcase his attributes through various actions (taking the child, crawling to town, etc.), we jump to him in sales mode. And everything keeps moving forward with pace, something many epics, and movies for that matter, struggle with (see my last analysis of Cool Runnings (1993)).
The dialogue is really quite special. Lot’s of back-and-forth.
Many of the scenes flow into each other perfectly. I often subconsciously ignored the sluglines because it was obvious which scene would follow the prior one.
Does too much simply happen to Daniel? Does he lack agency? Here are some examples:
- He is left with a baby who he can use as a marketing piece.
- He is approached by Paul Sunday with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
- His fake brother approached him, Daniel only growing suspicious (on his own time) after his son and business colleague voice their concerns.
- Eli comes and begs for money, which sets off the climax.
This doesn’t include many of the run-ins, unlikely encounters, etc. that Daniel generally benefits from.
But is all this an issue? Do protagonists really need agency? Perhaps it’s what they do with what happens to them versus what they try to do. Truthfully, I’m not sure.
Act 2 has some dry moments. Daniel’s charlatan brother takes up a valuable amount of runtime that is usually spent building toward Act 3 and the climax. Likewise, the Standard Oil men are weak threats, also perhaps getting too much attention in the script.
As an aside, and because I am not sure where to put this: In the film, actor Paul Dano plays two roles, twin brothers Paul and Eli Sunday. Apparently, the actor set to play Eli Sunday was fired. Some people understood that Paul and Eli were supposed to be twins, but I never did: I thought they were the same person, and apparently, I am not alone. I’m still scratching my head on that decision.
Dare I call this a simple plot? Of course, this helps us explore the themes in greater detail as they are rehashed through numerous negotiations, deceptions, and fights. But it isn’t a complicated story, which makes it relatively easy to follow: A man tries to get rich in the oil business.
We have Daniel, the entrepreneur, Eli, the local preacher, and a number of supporting cast members. I don’t have much to add to her besides the fact that many of the characters are relatively rigid in their goals (ex. make money). This leads to scenes with limited compromise and intense conflict.
Dialogue & Pacing
The writers use the “…” frequently, oftentimes to simply state that one character doesn’t respond. It’s a unique formatting choice.
In regard to dialogue, there are some fantastic lines, many of them harsh. For example, shortly after D.W. loses his hearing, Daniel, his father, says:
I can’t stay here with you all day, I have to take care of our business. our work. the wells. I can’t do this all day.
We don’t build up to an intense climax. In fact, many of the scenes start off with unclear terminals, yet build due to Daniel’s increasingly impulsive outbursts and general erratic behavior.
All of the characters struggle with deep internal flaws. Well, perhaps not H.W. – who embraces his deafness. Of course, this leads us to emphasize with him when he faces his father in Act 3.
But if generally speaking the characters are not able to overcome thier weaknesses, how come this movie is so impactful? That’s a question that goes beyond the script, and I would wager has more to do with the cinematography and acting. And to be fair, it’s a great script that explores many basic human attributes in an intense way.
Best Part of The Script
The reverse of the earlier slapping scene when Daniel is baptized at Eli’s Church (Page 104). Read it and then watch it: