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Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

United States 2007 158 mins.

Anderson’s features, while always sharpening their edges as they go, have never been hard-as-nails as this adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!”. Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits oilman Daniel Plainview, a leathery explorer intent on creating and quickly expanding an oil empire during the late-19th Century. With his adopted son as his partner, Plainview soon strikes it rich on the land of the Sunday family—and, ultimately, the surrounding land—until he’s nearly bought up an entire town. With his newfound success, Plainview is bombarded on all sides: by an estranged brother, by a larger oil company in search of a buy-out, and finally, by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), an old school, up-and-coming evangelist with a new church inextricably wrapped into the local fabric. Structuring the film are the pull of capital and the spirit of discovery at all costs—an American odyssey with a spiking trajectory mirroring stock market booms and crashes.