Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood opens with a pair of primordial vignettes set at the turn of the century. A solitary miner clawing at the earth with a pickaxe falls down a stony well and breaks his leg. Through savage will he somehow climbs back to the surface, where he drags himself across the arid land, twisting and flopping like the first fish to explore sandy shores. Then, another hole–this one dug for oil–and another man, this one not so lucky. As he stands waist-deep in the seeping crude at the bottom, the jerry-rigged wooden derrick high above him splits and tumbles down, driving him into the muck.

In these dialogue-free opening scenes, set to a score that buzzes like a plague of locusts, There Will Be Blood establishes itself as a film of Darwinian ferocity, a stark and pitiless parable of American capitalism. One man lives and one man dies. One hoists himself from the Earth’s embrace; the other is sucked into it. One winner, one loser.

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