Dennie van der Tuuk’s review published on Letterboxd:
The great thing about Anderson's movies, is that when you watch a certain movie again, you're watching something completely different than the last time. The Master is the movie that changes constantly into something else.
With the last three movies, it lasted some three to four years before we could enjoy a new Anderson movie. His movies are absolutely worth waiting for so long. And there's the question of what kind of evolution his movies go through. The Master would initially take on the Scientology wherein Hoffman would play the founder of that. But in the production process it became something completely else.
The Master is not only about the cult/group/religion. It's so much more than that. Like in all the other PTA movies, this has so many layers. It became a very interesting and intense character study. Freddie Quell completely lost it after his experience during World War II. Lancaster Dodd and his family, whom also plays an important part in the movie, take him is and want to lead him to a straight path using their own ways and beliefs. The relationship which develops between Quell and Dodd is wonderfully written. It feels more that is a father/son than a master/follower relationship. And that is where the power of the story, the way in which it is translated into images and the fantastic characters lies.
The movie goes in another direction than you would expect. Instead of depicting "the cult", or The Cause as they like to call it, in a way of what most peoples view of a cult is, Anderson chose to give a completely different view on it. Anderson depicts them as every other human being. He shows them as loving people who just have different beliefs and try to get as many followers as possible because they really believe in their "Master". Even though it doesn't get mentioned in the movie, money of course is playing a big part in that. Anderson doesn't show that on screen, but it's obvious they make a more than decent living with The Cause. Besides that the movie shows the defeat in young men who try to find their way into civilization again and because of their experiences have trouble adapting.
The Master is full of fantastic scenes and great dialogue. The first session between Dodd and Quell is very intense. The emotions that are in there, come across very convincingly. And there are more of those intense moments which get mixed in a great way with quiet and calm scenes. It does depict the state of mind Quell is in very good. In one moment he is about to explode and the other moment, het is very calm. His frustrations come across very well, where the calmness is put to good use towards the end of the movie. Quell reacts in such a very gentle way to Dodd and his wife. It's not really the intense/emotional ending, which we are used to from Anderson's previous movies, but very subdued. Works really well here. Perfect ending.
Phoenix and Hoffman are equally as good. Both play it with a lot of intensity sincerity and are giving their all. Adams is a great addition and delivers a wonderful performance. The supporting cast is also very important in a PTA movie and for those roles they made the choice for some great actors and actresses. Rami Malek is a huge talent. The same goes for Plemons. Also, great that Kevin J. O'Connor makes a small appearance here. The rest of the cast is doing a fine job as well. The acting is never a thing you have to worry about in an Anderson movie.
The big absent crew member here, is Robert Elswit. But Mihai Malaimare Jr. is doing a great job. Beautifully photographed in 70mm. That tracking shot through the warehouse with the lady who tries to sell a coat is amazing. A typical PTA shot. This time i noticed how important the music by Greenwood is. Works amazing in combination with what is happening on screen. There almost no other director that knows exactly what he wants and also gets what he want in exactly that way.
Where The Master, and especially the story, seems to be not as good as its predecessors, this is a movie that has so much more in it than what becomes clear after a first time watching this. This and Inherent Vice are the first Anderson movies that have to grow and demand multiple viewings. That doesn't make this PTA movie anything lesser than its predecessors. This is a brilliantly written, acted and made film.