After having seen “There Will Be Blood” three times in packed theatres there is no question it deserved its seven Oscar nominations—and perhaps should have received the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night (“No Country for Old Men” triumphed while Daniel Day-Lewis of “Blood” received the best actor award). But many evangelical Christians might disagree.
Based on Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!,” “There Will Be Blood” chronicles the degeneration of the fictional 19th century oil man Daniel Plainview who (as my own 15-year-old son has accurately described) becomes “less and less human and more and more reclusive” as his story unfolds. Because the movie vividly depicts the violence, lust and greed which accompany Plainview’s descent, many Christians see in it no socially or spiritually redeeming value. I disagree.
Consider “The Passion of the Christ.” It exceeded all expectations at the box office and since it did, evangelical Christians have come to expect “socially redeeming” films to overtly, explicitly and clearly spell out the Christian gospel almost “verse by verse.”
While not offering a clear presentation of the gospel, the need for the gospel is present in “There Will Be Blood” more in the form of a photographic negative than as a detailed Technicolor print. Christians prefer their gospel discussions pretty and bright, not dark and foreboding. Furthermore, many evangelical Christians object to “There Will Be Blood” because they believe it displays needless violence.
However, “There Will Be Blood” contains less dark elements than does the gospel story itself. Salvation was, after all, secured for us through what can properly be characterized as a miscarriage of justice leading to the torturous, bloody and shameful public execution of the Son of God. The all-too-often sterile Sunday School version of events surrounding the death of Christ does not accurately reflect just how violent it was. If the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ were accurately depicted on the big screen today, it would probably earn an NC-17 rating and Christians would boycott the film for not reflecting “Christian” morality. Ironic indeed.
But the whole point of “There Will Be Blood” is violence; therefore the violence cannot be characterized as "needless." Nihilistic, perhaps, but not needless.