The Master

21 Mar

the master

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 144 minutes



Paul Thomas Anderson is a fantastically talented film-maker and responsible for some of my favourite films. That is good going for a 42 year old with just 5 full-length features to his name. His films have been acclaimed internationally and his last one, There Will Be Blood, won a cluster of awards. The Master was also feted, but strangely not to the same degree. I have a feeling that to some critics Mr Anderson might be too talented for his own good.

This film tells the story of two men making their way in post WWII America. The first is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and the second is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). These are men living on the edges of acceptable society, but for different reasons and the characters must have been a joy to play by two of today’s best actors. Phoenix’s Freddie is fresh out of the army, a drunkard, a womaniser, and a rather sad and lonely character. Hoffman is the master and leads a group of believers in what has every hallmark of a Scientology like cult.

The story follows Freddie as a moonshining vagrant who stumbles upon the master and thus starts a most unusual friendship. Whilst the older man is refined, charismatic and confident the younger Freddie is uncouth, socially awkward and seems to live on the edge of violence. No doubt he is suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress from the army and that sense of military neglect is one theme of a multi-faceted film.

Freddie finds something of which he is seeking in the company of the larger than life Dodd. From a broken home, and struggling with his temper and oddness, Freddie enjoys the attention of the wise old man. For the master the attraction becomes clearer at a slower pace and is one of the most fascinating parts of the film. Although claimed to be a visionary and clearly capable of charming money from the educated and wealthy, Dodd still has some animal instincts like Freddie. It appears that he is also aware of the limitations of his vision so he tests himself by trying to convert the strange, angry and aimless drifter.

The acting by Phoenix and Hoffman is fantastic. Their scenes together are riveting and Phoenix genuinely looks haunted throughout. Amy Adams is also great in the role of Dodd’s loyal, but by no means side-lined wife. This is such a high quality film. In following Freddie and the master’s journey across America the photography is sumptuous – stunning locations shot in glorious 65 mm film. Paul Thomas Anderson has done it again. This is without doubt one of the very best films released in the last 12 months; a poignant and impactful film about a land of opportunity, about being American, the doubts that we carry and about man’s search for human connection.

2 Responses to “The Master”


  1. Reviewing Oscar Nominated Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master’, starring Philip Seymor Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams | Film Louvre - April 9, 2013

    […] The Master ( […]

  2. The Master | Flick Advisor - April 17, 2013

    […] The Master ( […]

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