Money, power, greed, fraudulence, spiritual deceit, morality, family, self-hatred, impatience, madness and rivalry are just some of the complex issues covered in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic magnum opus, 'There Will Be Blood'.

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Though pipped at the Oscars post by 'No Country for Old Men', as time passes Anderson's mesmerising masterpiece will outlive the Coen brothers' exemplary work and nudge ahead of it in the annals of great American filmmaking.

Here is cinema as high art and a film which rivals 'Citizen Kane' for sheer cinematic achievement, with Daniel Day-Lewis by no means the only contributor working at the top of his game.

Anderson's water-tight script and lavish direction point to a filmmaker far more impressive and gifted than he has perhaps been given credit for in the past.

His achievements here more than warranted a Best Director Oscar, though he can claim to be in good company with other fine directors routinely passed over for the award.

The 37-year-old even has the audacity in 'There Will Be Blood' to make his audience wait 15 minutes before a line of dialogue is spoken, yet still make that quarter of an hour absolutely captivating to watch.

Set on the frontier of California’s turn-of-the-century oil boom, Anderson's fifth movie chronicles the life of Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), a miner who transforms himself into a self-made oil tycoon.

When he gets a tip-off that there's an ocean of oil oozing out of the ground near California's coast, he heads with his son, HW (Freasier), to drain the town of their black gold and con the townsfolk into selling their land. There he comes into contact with charismatic preacher Eli Sunday (Dano), and so begins a tit for tat rivalry as Eli mirrors Plainview's own deceit in his own unique way.

Day-Lewis' performance as the complex Plainview is as staggeringly brilliant as his lorry-load of awards suggests. Here is one of, if not THE, finest performances ever to be burnt onto celluloid. This is acting as high art, and absolutely exhilarating to watch. Present in almost every scene, there's a real sense of privilege in watching the finest actor of his generation get his teeth into such a well-crafted role.

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As a character, Plainview's greed is bottomless and its progression over the film's 30-year time span is brilliantly captured by Day-Lewis as he goes, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, from a poor man wanting to be a rich; a rich man wanting to be king; and a king who ain't satisfied until he rules everything. Power corrupts Plainview, and a bleak future of madness, death and mayhem looms large to the point that, as Anderson's biblical title suggests, there will be blood.

As much an important contributor as Day-Lewis, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's discordant music builds brilliant tension throughout, with its opening ring in the first minute transferring us straight into Anderson's world. In context, it marks perhaps his finest musical achievement to date.

Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Elswit should also be noted, as throughout he captures shots which literally take the breath away on more than a dozen occasions.

But most of all, this is Anderson's work - a remarkably riveting achievement in cinema that will go down as one of the finest films of the decade, Best Picture Oscar or no Oscar.

Steve Cummins