An Odd “Bloody” Ending: There Will Be Blood

By at January 3, 2008 | 12:17 am | Print

Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood

Here at the Lobby, and on many other film sites, movie endings have been a recent hot topic. Great movies with disappointing endings. Vague endings that lack closure. Endings changed in the transition from book to film.

Next grist for the mill: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ballsy, bizarre 
There Will Be Blood. I’ve always appreciated Anderson’s movies more after repeated viewings — Magnolia especially — and I hope this too will be the case. As much as I enjoy the movie’s wicked dialogue, grave style and incredible performances, the ending just seems inconsistent. A slightly outlandish, non-climactic wrap-up that doesn’t really fit. (Maybe I’ll think differently when I see it again?)

Dillon Freasier and Daniel Day-Lewis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be BloodSo much of There Will Be Blood‘s first two acts take place outdoors, as Daniel Day-Lewis’ obsessed oil baron builds his empire literally by hand. His final bow in the film, decades after we first meet him, occurs indoors — perhaps too limiting for a figure of such enormous size. Even if his ridiculous mansion is big enough to house a bowling alley.

I think Anderson’s intersection of commerce and faith deserves something better. 

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Trackbacks For This Post

  1. […] a sinful omission, composer Jonny Greenwood’s score for P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood will be missing from Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony. But more on that later. Think about the […]

  2. […] any old western film. Parts of it make you feel like you mistakenly walked into a screening of There Will Be Blood or an episode of Deadwood (easy enough trick with both Paul Dano and Keith Carradine in the […]

  3. […] than Lou Pucci (no offense to Pucci). It’s a point of progress that probably began with There Will Be Blood, and may be necessary for the indie actors of Dano’s generation to continue moving […]


  1. Chris, 10 years ago Reply

    Don’t you think maybe PT gave up on endings after the wonderful/horrible, genius/idiot ending to Boogie Nights? Magnolia didn’t hold together for me after the frogs, either. That was a big swing for the bleacher seats that ended up going foul. Looking forward to Blood, though.

  2. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Chris –
    So did you like or hate the ending to Boogie Nights? Or both? For the record, I loved it. I felt all those personalities under one roof represented a sympathetic, dysfunctional brew of people that was almost utopian — while being a parody / prophecy for the nuclear family (Burt Reynolds’ character recommends that Heather Graham’s Rollergirl clean her room).

    In Magnolia, Anderson took a big leap (no joke!) with the frogs, but the movie got really human in that ending afterward. I didn’t love it, but I admired and liked it.

    Reaction to the final scenes in There Will Be Blood are on polar opposites. At the screening I attended, many applauded. But I’ve heard that there was blatant laughter in some locations.

    Let us know what you think.

    -Norm S. (Meet In the Lobby)

  3. Chris, 10 years ago Reply

    Loved Boogie Nights all the way through. Let’s face it, any ending would have a hard time competing with the incredibly effective opening of the minutes-long tracking shot through the disco.

    We’re talking about different endings, though. I agree that Jack Horner’s (Reynold’s) rehabilitation of the entire clan from dysfunctional to functional (in their own universe) was the right way to go… but then PT discounted all of the goodwill with Dirk’s (Wahlberg) motivational soliloquy to his diggler. That was the point, I guess, that the entire plot was made possible and driven by only one “thing.”

    Still don’t know if that shot was insightful commentary or a cheap stunt. But, I’m still wondering, 10 years later.

  4. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Chris –
    Ah, thanks for clarifying that. I don’t agree that the “money shot” ending discounts all the good vibes from Jack’s house.

    If anything, Anderson feeds into audience fantasies (and fears!) about just what that thing looks likie since it’s been talked about all movie. It’s like “you want to see it, fine, here it is!!” It titillates and insults the audience at the same time.

    -Norm S.

  5. Eric, 10 years ago Reply

    I LOVED the ending to “Blood.” First off, it totally fits in with the wicked, dark humor of the film, as well as the obsessive character traits of DD-L’s character. Just because the last line of the movie ellicits laughs (as it did with me), doesn’t mean that the ending should be de-valued. It’s a dramatically and thematically perfect ending with a hilarious punchline! I’ll have a review up Friday, but for now, here’s my Top 10 of 2007, with “Blood” right at the top:

  6. Pablo, 10 years ago Reply

    The ending was very silly, but I liked it. There was just something about it. Any other screenplay would’ve ended it with Plainview contemplating how his life was a waste as he sat in his dark, cold mansion. But the ending just showed how truly evil of a person Plainview was. It had this slapstick quality to it that made me smile after 140 minutes of !!!EPIC MOVIE!!! beauty. I think in the years to come, the dark humor of this humorless movie will be talked about a bit more. “I’m finished!!!”

  7. Matthew J, 10 years ago Reply

    I agree, the Blood ending perfect. It left me laughing in a dark way which went along with the style of the film. Daniel Day was an evil genius played to perfection. I left the movie wondering what the f*ck i just went through, but after it all sank in, I kept thinking “what a masterpiece” good stuff

  8. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Pablo, Matthew J –
    You guys and many others are making me rethink my opinion of the ending. I’m not backpedaling on my initial instinct — I mean, that’s how we know whether we like movies or not — but I’m starting to see it a little differently.

    But even with the change in tone, I didn’t find the final scenes as startling as you guys did. I did feel the sense of “oh well, this guy really was an indescribable bastard, and now his madness has gotten the best of him.”

    -Norm S. (Meet In the Lobby)

  9. Mark Lord, 9 years ago Reply

    I was puzzled why the Eli Sunday character seemed not to change in the final scene compared to earlier scenes. Oh sure, he was wearing nicer clothes and his hair was slicked back to show that he appeared successful and fashionable. On the outside he changed, but he was still the weak, spiritual fraud inside when faced with Plainview’s bullying. 15 years taught him nothing. Do you remember the last time he confronted Plainview demanding the $5000 he as owned? He was prompted slapped silly and got his face covered in mud. Then you see in the next scene Eli go after his father in anger for letting Plainview on their land in the first place. Why didn’t we see that rage turned on Plainview in the final scene? Perhaps he thought he was even after he slapped Plainview in the Testimonial/Baptism scene (Was it there that Plainview told Eli he would eat him?) Why did Eli still cower from the bully who ultimately crushed him as if he were a cockroach trying to scurry away? Sorry, a lot of questions. For me, the comic irony came when the violin solo (Brahms Concerto?) came back with Eli’s blood was spilled. We had heard it earlier when oil gushed out of the “Mary” well after it was commissioned. Both for me there was no no humor in the final scene.

  10. Steve Manlove, 8 years ago Reply

    I’m curious about the guy who walked down the stairs in the bathrobe. Who was he? What was his purpose in that scene?

  11. Norm Schrager, 8 years ago Reply

    Unfortunately, I haven’t seen There Will Be Blood in a while and don’t recall the detail. Can anyone help Steve out?

  12. Neil, 8 years ago Reply

    The ‘guy in the bathrobe’ was Plainview’s butler.

  13. Dan, 6 years ago Reply

    I was just curiose as to the “im finishied” line, did he mean that he was like done with that nonsense (as in eli), or like he was finished in he had done everything he said he was going to do, or like he was going to jail? For that matter do you think he could have just covered it up? I mean oil tycoon in pre depression america? He would have been almost untouchable right?

  14. Susu, 3 years ago Reply

    exhilarating, suspenseful, chilling and beautiful.

    i heard once that the reason people stand whenever the ‘hallelujah chorus’ is performed is because it was first performed for a king, and he was so moved by it, he simply stood up during the song. this movie is just like that.

    i’m happy to be alive and at an age where i can appreciate this sort of thing now, because 50 years from now, people will surely say, ‘i wonder what it was like to see that movie in theaters when it had just been released.’

    when i say, ‘you should go see this movie,’ i don’t mean it’s really entertaining, a good way to spend a Saturday night, worth the price of admission or what have you. i mean it in the way that i think everyone should see the sistine chapel, read hemingway, listen to beethoven’s 9th symphony and so on. it will certainly be remembered for generations to come as an important work of art.

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