Michael Offerosky’s review published on Letterboxd:
PT Anderson's THE MASTER is by far the most divisive film in his career. Roger Ebert wrote something about having a lot to admire about the film but whenever he reached for it, it would float away. This film will be out of reach for many but take it from me that the film improves by leaps and bounds on repeat viewings. This is truly a masterpiece. Joaquin Phoenix is Freddie Quell, a ne'er do well ex-naval officer in the early 1950's who has been drifting since WWII ended. One night on the run Freddie stumbles on to a boat where there's a party. Little does he know this is the boat of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is the leader of The Cause. It's no secret that the film is loosely based on Scientology but is a completely fictional take on the cult.
Dodd takes Freddie under his wing and introduces him to The Cause and it's tenets. Freddie takes to it feeling that he's found a friend in Dodd and that he's learning to adjust into society. Lancaster Dodd finds himself in legal trouble and this is where a rift between Dodd and Freddie begins to grow. Freddie starts to see Dodd as a man instead of a guru but continues with the cause anyway. The film is about the friendship between the two men and the strains that are put on them by society, The Cause, and those who would seek to challenge The Cause.
There are several standout scenes when it comes to THE MASTER. Freddie's processing, the jailhouse scene, the scene with the dissenter at a party for The Cause. My favorite scene though comes about ten minutes from the end of the film where Dodd sings to Freddie "Slow Boat To China". What it is about that scene is hard to put into words but you feel every second of that song and emotionally understand what is meant.
THE MASTER is another brilliant film from PT. The film is divisive because it's a challenging film and one that is not for the masses but the language of film does come through and reach it's intended audience. As previously stated, this is a film that does grow upon multiple viewings. If you had a negative opinion of the film at first glance, please give it another shot. There is so much here to enjoy and to appeal to lovers of cinema that I cannot help but give this one of my highest recommendations.