When I first saw There Will Be Blood, I was disappointed. While I enjoyed the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis and I appreciated the gorgeous cinematography, the film did not do much for me, and it felt pretentious and overlong.
What a difference a second viewing makes. The second time around, I found the pacing of the film to be patient instead of slow, and I was better able to see all the layers of Daniel Day-Lewis' performance: he is absolutely mesmerizing as the mysterious and deeply amoral Daniel Plainview. The lack of any backstory or context provided for him and his son, H.W., will no doubt frustrate some filmgoers, and this film is certainly not for everyone, but I love the ambiguity and find it rather thought-provoking.
Every time I come back to this film, I find something new in it; the more I see it, the stranger and sadder it seems to get. Many critics have taken issue with third act, but I would compare this film's third act to the ending of Apocalypse Now; frustratingly messy for some filmgoers, but I loved it. There's an anarchy and chaos to this filmmaking that really does reflect the most negative implications of a libertarian approach to society that enables (if not encourages) people like Daniel Plainview: liberty, self-reliance, and competition can be good in certain instances, but this can lead to a certain cold-bloodedness that can be very problematic.
This film really penetrates to the heart of the American tradition of rugged individualism, and seems to comment on the implications of living under a capitalistic economic system: with each new viewing, more layers seem to be revealed—the performances seem to get better and better, and the political commentary grows sharper and sharper. Daniel Day-Lewis has given many fine performances, but this is clearly his crowning achievement, and this film serves as further proof that Paul Thomas Anderson is pretty much the best filmmaker alive.