Independent silver miner Daniel Plainview shows dogged determination to make it big with his small mining outfit in early 20th century California, putting in long hours for little pay-off until he accidentally stumbles onto an oil well. Losing employees along the way to poor oversight or to dangerous conditions, Plainview, along with his adopted son, becomes wealthy in the oil biz by: (1) doing the job more quickly and effectively than others, and (2) lying, scamming and aggression.
Just like modern times!
Daniel Day-Lewis earned the Oscar he won for his portrayal of Plainview. His character is complex, and carries the movie. (In fact, he may well be in each and every scene.) The cinematography is the best I've seen since A River Runs Through It. The dialogue is rich and authentic, and the supporting actors perform well.
But I couldn't help noticing that as Plainview becomes wealthier, he becomes more vile. More paranoid, and withdrawn. Less human. His pursuit of wealth ultimately costs him far greater than the material rewards he reaped.
Just like modern times.