Danny Webster’s review published on Letterboxd:
Philip Seymour Hoffman was perfectly cast as Lancaster Dodd, the headpiece and supposed leader of The Cause. He is charismatic, so much so, that had I not known he was just spouting nonsense, I could so easily have been brainwashed to the point of simply being a pet dog to him. Saying that, Joaquin Phoenix as World War II veteran and follower of The Cause, Freddie Quells is intoxicating.
I honestly haven't seen a whole load of his films, but from Gladiator to Walk the Line, I'm pretty confident in saying this is his best performance not only because he's such a great actor, but because he is Freddie Quells. He completely jumps into the role and alongside Hoffman, them two together fully committing to their roles makes this film all the better.
Without those two, would the film be as good? I doubt it in all honesty. Whilst I agree PTA is a superb director and he does show here it again, without the two leads and assuming someone else took the roles (Which honestly, I couldn't ever see) the ideas alone wouldn't be enough. And that's why the interactions, even small ones, are what make this film so important for me. The prison scene for example, or even the bizarrely hilarious PIGFUCK! scene. (I get that he's not talking to Quells at that particular time, but in the background, everything Phoenix does is deliberate, and fantastic).
I would be a disservice not to praise Paul Thomas Anderson who currently is proving himself without any real doubt as the best director working today. In terms of creating real quality, real characters, real films and real stories that all immerse me so deep into his films, PTA has no real equal. His craft and technical prowess is astounding and although probably not given enough credit, his ability to write is also of an exceptionally high standard.
I'm going to finish here because otherwise I'm just going to praise everything about the film ten-times over and it'll become a bigger bore than it probably already is.