The Master

The Master ★★★★

A rewatch for this intelligent Paul Thomas Anderson film about a charismatic cult leader and a disturbed navy veteran, loosely based on the vibes of Scientology.

Joaquin Phoenix is Freddie Quell, a man it is impossible to like, who gets sucked into the 'Cause': Phoenix continues to impress as an actor as his career develops, earning a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar nomination for this role. His Freddie is a study in quiet desperation, his true emotions blotted and stubbed by his war experiences and the tangled relationships within his family.

As 'The Master', Lancaster Dodd, the late lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman puts in a towering powerhouse of a performance, calm, calculating, and disarmingly normal as the man who leads his followers into unquestionable submission to his ideals. His death in 2014 robbed the film world of what might have been the maturity of one of the screen's greatest acting forces: in his last few films he displayed a settled assurance with the camera that had been lacking in one or two of his early appearances (although he was always worth watching and something of a scene-stealer).

This film has much to commend it and is a literate depiction of the suggestion that one person can impact on another, and that happens once that person outgrows the cause in which they have been planted.

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