However, I can't say that I loved this movie, because it ultimately was much more disturbing and thought-provoking than I was expecting. And actually, I have to say, that as I was watching the movie, I didn't expect it to cause as much turmoil as it did after viewing - that is, until the end of the movie. And I suggest that you stop reading here if you don't want to know what happens in the end!
So this is my attempt to be like Ms. Brittle and analyze this film - The thing is that after I watched the movie and was thinking it over, especially the last line, "I'm finished", I started to see a lot of Biblical allusions throughout the movie. From the naming of some characters (there is a father who sells his land to Daniel Plainview named Abel Sunday; Abel has either one son with a split personality or two sons - one named Paul and the other Eli). Eli Sunday essentially becomes the archnemesis of Daniel Plainview, spewing twisted "Christian" rhetoric at him.
Plainview is a captain of industry - an oil driller who strikes it rich in California, but in the process loses everything, including his humanity. In fact, I would say that this movie is about his descent into inhumanity - other reviewers have talked about it like it is his descent into immorality, but it is much stronger than that. Plainview ends up "adopting" a son one day in the beginning of his journey into oil drilling after one of his workers is killed. His son isn't even given a name - his name is "H.W." But throughout the movie, you get this sense that Plainview does in fact love his son - his son is the one thing that keeps him from devolving into a complete monster who cares only about the bottom line and beating his competition. Actually, I should say he cares about killing his competition because beating is too nice of a word and doesn't capture the feelings of hatred that Plainview has of the competition. In fact, at one point in the movie, Plainview is having a discussion with his "brother" and relates to him that he "feels a competition burning inside of him, and feels this intense hatred of people" and that in fact he hates all people. At one bizarre point in the movie, Plainview threatens to cut the throat of a man who wants to buy his company out - and the man points out the craziness of the statement by plainly asking him (and questioning the audience) "Are you crazy?" And that is the question you have to ask yourself as the movie continues to move along - is Daniel crazy? Is Eli crazy? Are they both crazy? Is there a good guy?
There are so many layers to this movie - how Daniel "sacrifices" his son in the end, how he ends up destroying Eli, and how the movie ends with him sitting in a pool of blood, stating that "I'm finished" - it's as if he is almost sayting that his sins are atoned with Eli's blood - Eli, who is this insipid, despicable preacher who makes his parishioners look like a bunch of sheep being led to the slaughter - they cannot think for themselves and Eli makes all of their decisions. I'm sure I am not being very coherent in relating all of this, but there is so much to think on and ruminate over. I don't know if I can recommend this movie - only if you want to experience a mind-blowing movie, but not the good kind of mind-blowing movies like Into the Wild, which remains my favorite movie of 2007.