The Terror of "I Drink Your Milkshake"

A look at Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 film There Will Be Blood
The Terror of "I Drink Your Milkshake"

One would usually associate the line “I drink your milkshake” as a dialogue from an Adam Sandler comedy. The word ‘milkshake’ invokes memories of summer holidays and great joy. While threatening to drink someone else's milkshake might sound mean, by itself it doesn’t represent the kind of repulsiveness the term takes on in Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood.

There Will Be Blood is an American period drama epic with an unsettlingly dissonant score by Jonny Greenwood and a lead performance of a lifetime by Daniel Day-Lewis. The film garnered widespread acclaim upon its release, and brought Day-Lewis his second Oscar for the portrayal of the sociopathic Daniel Plainview, a silver miner turned oil tycoon. It is the story of a man’s descent into madness, but more than that the film is an open letter to the ills of capitalism and religion and is an uncomfortably haunting look at the history of 20th-century America. The story chronicles the birth of a brave new industrial age, one which is a harbinger of great wealth and prosperity for America, albeit skewing its moral compass in the process.

Daniel Plainview is the literal personification of capitalism. Whether he is the protagonist of the story, the antagonist, or an anti-hero is up for debate. Day-Lewis plays him with such enchanted panache that the fact that the story almost entirely focuses on him, or that this movie has almost no female representation, seems to become irrelevant. His capitalistic chicanery, his ploys, his well-versed and well-rehearsed sales pitch and his hate for all men makes him an overt monster of the present age of laws and bounds. “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people,” he says. He is terrorizing and poignant, reassuring and fraudulent, but most of all, he regrets nothing. He is who he is because he desires money and power, and he won’t let any money hungry merchant disguised as an evangelical preacher stop him. Which brings me to Paul Dano, arguably the second most important character in the film. He plays Paul and the scone-faced Eli Sunday, and whether they are different people or the same person remains a mystery. He seems like a normal person in the beginning of the movie, but as the story unfolds, he turns into a giant shadow looming over your head, a church-man, a healer, a fraud and a disguised capitalist himself. The story is very much rooted in the hatred Daniel and Eli share for each other. We also have H.W. Plainview, Daniel’s adopted son and his "family". Although Daniel uses him to gain people’s sympathies, simply as a prop, H.W. is nonetheless earnest and thankful to his father for raising him. Daniel does have people who care for him (like his brother, another earnest character in Daniel's life), but he just doesn’t give a f*ck about anyone, that’s just who he is.

The imagery and cinematography of the movie is brimming with substance. There is a dark, almost brownish tone to the movie, and the long consistent pauses only add more to the horror elements of the film. The oilmen wear tattered clothes and are covered in black ooze and blood, while the aristocracy of the budding industrial age wear sharp suits and hats. The direction by PTA is riveting: fire roaring furiously from oil pits doesn’t terrify and yet, noise from cutlery in a scene is enough to add more tension to the frame. The movie is long at 158 minutes, and its painfully slow, but it demands your attention throughout its runtime.

Art is subjective. There Will Be Blood is a great movie, but whether you like it or not is up to your sound judgement. However, watching this movie is like watching a time bomb, ticking its way to an inevitable glorious explosion. So sit tight till the end, until Daniel becomes the movie itself and proclaims, “I’m finished.”

Related Stories

No stories found.