Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest theatrical minds of my time. He writes, directs, and produces nearly everything that he works on. He works with A-list actors that he coaxes flawless performances out of. He creates worlds with incredible amounts of depth and often showcases the depravity of life in a tangible way. The Master is no different.
Although the script doesn’t follow a formulaic plot, it’s rather easy to explain: Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a WWII vet that is fresh out of the war. It’s clear that he has troubles with drink, has an incredible temper, and has a very narrow-minded view of women– you can probably guess how.
He stumbles onto a party boat where he meets Lancaster Dodd, portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Lancaster happens to be not only the captain of the boat, but the leader of a cult that is analogous to L. Ron Hubbard’s highly successful religion, Scientology. From there, Freddie shacks up with Lancaster and his followers across the country, linked by a bond that no one seems to understand, not even the men in question.
The Master is truly a work of art. It has cinematography that is unparalleled in most modern film with deep, dark shadows, unrelenting close-ups, and long, sweeping shots that seem to take minutes to complete. As mentioned before, the performances are awe inspiring; Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman light up the screen like never before in the skin of two incredibly demanding, tough characters.
The real beauty of the film stems from the central questions that it breeds, but never fully answers: Do the ends justify the means? Does true companionship have a bond deeper than reason? Can someone ever truly be changed for the better if they’re unwilling? Paul Thomas Anderson gift wraps the questions, but expects you to open them up.
Matt's rating: 4.5/5 Gabe's rating: 4/5 Josh's rating: 5/5 Rewind Cinema composite: 13.5/15