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Monday, October 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Master

Directed, written, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) The Master is a drama about Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic World War II vet suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and his drunken discovery of a religious movement known as The Cause led by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  Despite Dodd’s belief that he can help Freddie, the rest of The Cause, including Dodd’s wife Peggy (Amy Adams), thinks him to be psychotic or an undercover agent.  The film premiered at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in September of this year.

The Master is a masterpiece (pun intended) on par with Anderson’s previous film: There Will Be Blood.  A powerful, cinematically brilliant work of art with eerily outstanding performances.  Though the biggest difference is the less coherent story line.  This film’s subject matter is intriguing by itself… a WWII vet struggling with alcoholism, PTSD, and the inability to adapt to a post-war society gets mixed up in a cult.  Now that’s entertainment!  But the sometimes confusing story leaves behind a good deal of unanswered questions.

Anderson made some great cinematic choices to match the heavy mood and content of the film.  This movie is hypnotizing in its aesthetics and it’s score, composed by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, aligns with the tone and makes an already captivating film even more mesmerizing.

Performance-wise all is great.  But Phoenix’s commitment makes for an almost disturbingly real portrayal of a truly complicated character.  This film also features perhaps  Hoffman’s best performance yet as he plays the deceivingly charismatic leader of The Cause who develops an almost brotherly connection to Freddie.  Also I found Adams to be perfectly cast and she plays the part of the dedicated wife of a cult-leader so well that she almost makes the whole thing seem rational or even normal.

I was very intrigued by The Cause itself and would have liked to know more about it’s formation.  The story begins when the movement has already been established and Dodd is writing his second book.  Though Anderson’s realistic approach to The Cause is what makes it so unnerving.

Like I said, The Master leaves the viewer with plenty of unanswered questions, but maybe that is what it was intended to do.  Either way this film is absolutely worth seeing.

8/10 Masters

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