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The Master (2012)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 223
Fresh: 190 | Rotten: 33

Smart and solidly engrossing, The Master extends Paul Thomas Anderson's winning streak of challenging films for serious audiences.


Average Rating: 8.2/10
Critic Reviews: 50
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 10

Smart and solidly engrossing, The Master extends Paul Thomas Anderson's winning streak of challenging films for serious audiences.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 45,663

My Rating

Movie Info

A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). -- (C) Weinstein



Feb 26, 2013


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All Critics (223) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (190) | Rotten (33) | DVD (3)

It's a mess; it's pretentious; it is thundery with dismay.

June 14, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In the end it may not have the emotional uplift the Academy or a popular mainstream audience craves, but make no mistake, this is an enthralling drama about a peculiarly American restlessness, and the striving for insight and grace.

January 8, 2013 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] challenging, psychologically fraught drama.

January 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The actors' commitment to their roles is impressive, but it's tethered to a weightless, airless movie, a film so enamored of itself, the audience gets shut out.

September 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Miami Herald | Comments (44)
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Master may go down as one of Paul Thomas Anderson's most compelling works for two simple reasons: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

September 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Where There Will Be Blood transmuted sullen earth into flame and launched it violently skyward, The Master is, as its opening shot advertises, a more fluid undertaking, a story of ebb and flow.

September 21, 2012 Full Review Source: The Atlantic
The Atlantic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There is so much spark here, so much to absorb, that the effect defies any picking of nits and just makes one grateful.

June 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

A perverted sausage party in which Anderson fully indulges his obsession with male genitalia.

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

The film never lags. It is too gorgeous, too expertly acted, and above all, too well directed and written. Nearly devoid of exposition, "The Master" unfolds seamlessly and naturally.

May 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

THE MASTER is challenging, perplexing, at times infuriating - and always thoughtful. Indelible. And always, always beautiful.

April 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Badass Digest

by itself, gives lie to the idea that Americans don't make great, nuanced, complicated films. It's sublime.

March 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is a challenging film, like most of his work. One that evokes a spellbinding performance out of Joaquin Phoenix.

March 3, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

Despite sumptuous cinematography and sublime acting, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film ultimately feels a touch pointless.

March 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

There is not too much by way of extras in the new Blu-ray release of the under appreciated film, "The Master," but what is there is excellent.

March 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Admirável ao permitir que o filme desenvolva seus temas e personagens ao seguir em direções frequentemente inesperadas, Anderson continua a demonstrar seu talento como cineasta tanto pela maturidade de seus temas quanto por seu preciosismo estético.

January 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Refusing to wrestle with the veracity or the real implications of The Cause, one begins to question what is underpinning the entire exercise, an ambiguity that, as with Kubrick, will require multiple viewings to unravel.

January 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Fan The Fire
Fan The Fire

The at-times-impenetrable film will require multiple viewings to fully appreciate the multitude of themes and subtext.

January 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Austin American-Statesman
Austin American-Statesman

Anderson has achieved his mid-century epic, and in its pure 65mm sumptuousness, the great American movie.

January 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

THE MASTER is a brilliant film. THE MASTER is a confounding film. The Master is a terrible film. THE MASTER may talked about for the ages or forgotten in a few years. THE MASTER may be a masterpiece, THE MASTER may be empty of content...

December 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Filmfest

THE MASTER is brilliant and/or confounding and/or terrible. It may be talked about for the ages or forgotten in a few years. It may be a masterpiece, and/or it may be empty of content masked by strong moments of acting prowess and visual flare.

December 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Twitch

With almost no narrative progression, this film is basically a character study in which the main characters remain little changed and enigmatic.

December 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

The least accessible of Anderson's films, and the least enjoyable, but it's intelligent and original enough for him to remain a "must-see" director.

December 4, 2012 Full Review Source: ABC Radio (Australia)
ABC Radio (Australia)

For me, it is a masterpiece, a visually stunning explosion of pure cinema, emotionally charged with a penetrating psychological punch. If you are bored by this film, to paraphrase the great Samuel Johnson, then you are bored with life.

November 22, 2012 Full Review Source: UTV

Audience Reviews for The Master

With complete bias, Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best directors of all time, and he tackles strong and completely entrancing subjects that always seem to make the viewer watch the decline of a young and promise filled man. The main, and most volatile character of the film, is Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a veteran in post-World War II America, trying to understand the shambles of his life while also fighting against it without much luck. The "fever dream" setting, intermingling with the bright cinematography, and principle photography, and the time period, made the film look and feel vivid. The first shot of the ocean as the battleship cruised along, looked like true beauty, as does most of the film. While "There Will Be Blood" also looked impressive, it was distinguished by a gritty texture and robust characters. "The Master" is much more subdued, and therefore has a more plaintive and beatific look. Freddie is much more salt of the earth than the man who saves him, but you never know whether or not to root for him, because we never know whether his actions are just, whether he's an angry soul who cannot be saved, or the beliefs of "The Cause" are real and will help him. The counterpart to Freddie's character is Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) who leads "The Cause" and owns the boat that Freddie stows away on, one drunken night. Their relationship is what really fuels the film, because though Phoenix gives an almost intractable performance, Hoffman is just as ravenous and power hungry. What makes the film watchable, as well as strong, is the interplay between the two, who seem to have a somewhat honest relationship; until the true nature of who Lancaster is surfaces for the audience. It's not surprising to find that these humble people who take in a drifter without judgment turn out to be cult leaders, but the way it's built up truly makes for an interesting watch. "The Cause's" structure and belief systems work themselves into the plot nicely, and lend to some grandstanding speeches from Lancaster, and scenes that defy time. What doesn't seem to come so easily for the film is what it's trying to say. At times it feels invigorating to watch the playful way Lancaster feeds his revelations to an awaiting audience, but when it's all said and done nothing comes from this film. Is it a commentary on Scientology and cult religions in general, a character study of Freddie, or of his relationship with Dodd? It's still an interesting and beautiful film, it's just hard to love without a fast paced plot and likable characters. This is an actor's film, which is why all the award nominations went to the cast, so it has nothing to do with substance, just strength. It's not a film I would recommend unless you're a cinephile who's in love with Paul Thomas Anderson.
September 10, 2013

Super Reviewer

I was said that it's specifically an OSCAR material, and so I wasn't expecting it to be any good. But it fared relatively well. Not a masterpiece, though.
June 30, 2013

Super Reviewer

Now don't get me wrong, The Master is brilliantly directed, but what I admire about Paul Thomas Anderson is that he doesn't over direct. Kubrik's version would have been much more lavish, PTA lets the performances take the lead and just adds a few beautiful long shots and some impressively long takes in so as not to be gratuitous. In that sense he is the best director working today. The Master can be slow in places and I can see why the ending was a disappointment to some but it's been a very long time since I've seen as good as a performance from an actor, let alone two in the same film! Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are awesome, why the hell did neither of them win any of the awards they were nominated for? I've not always been a fan of PTA but I think what he is doing now is brilliant and I'm hungry for more.
June 28, 2013

Super Reviewer

This is once again a great example of why Paul Thomas Anderson is not only a brilliant filmmaker, but also probably the next Kubrick. Both are known for their ambitious and challenging works, as well are their captivating ideas, visuals, and style.

And what we have here is a film that I've had one of the hardest times getting through.

Freddie Quell is a sex-obsessed alcoholic drifter with a troubled past who is struggling to adjust to post-war life in America. One drunken night he stows away on the boat of Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a fringe movement known as The Cause. Uncertain of the future and himself, Quell becomes heavily involved with Dodd and his followers and, despite their best efforts to help him, his demons just may get the best of all of them.

Inspired by L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology (to a degree), this is a fascinating character study about the effects of a master and servant type of relationship in a cult-like setting. The best words I can think of to describe this film would be difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable.

That last one is especially true, as the film has this overwhelming atmosphere of dread and uneasiness through every single frame. I thought that There Will Be Blood was a heavy film, but this one raises the bar. It easily makes for some great thought and discussion afterwards.

The film is hard to like, but easy to respect. The characters aren't the most appealing of people. especially Freddie, and a lot of the time, you really don't know what the film is trying to say, or what the point of everything is. I like that it doesn't spoon feed the audience, but maybe its a bit too meandering, ambitious and ambiguous.

Two things really save it though, and that is the cinematography and the acting. This is PTA's first film without long time cinematographer Robert Elswit, but the results are still staggeringly beautiful and stunning. The film was shot in 65mm, and unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see it on a big screen. It' is striking and gorgeous all the way through, and there's some great trademark long takes and tracking shots as well.

Joaquin Phoenix is in top form here, and it is great to see him back in action, He really smolders as the screwed up, unpleasant, and mysterious Freddie. Going toe to toe with him is long time PTA collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dodd, and dear Lord, is this a great performance. He might not be as griping as Daniel-Day Lewis in TWBB, but he is nevertheless amazing to watch. Amy Adams appears as Dodd's wife Mary Sue Dodd, and holy crap! She's really quite creepy and unsettling, and it makes me want to rethink my crush on her, similar to Ellen Page's performance in Hard Candy.

I love Anderson, and I think he's a really important filmmaker, but sometimes, I just don't know about him. This film, like its characters, is a hard nut to crack. It's really good, but I have just enough issues with it to keep from gushing about it like I usually do with PTA's work. I recommend it, but only go in knowing that this one's not an easy ride, despite how beautiful the landscape may be.
May 18, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Peggy Dodd: You can't take this life straight, can you?
    – Submitted by Frances H (6 months ago)
    1. Val Dodd: He's making all this up as he goes along. You don't see that? I could go to sleep for hours and when I woke up I wouldn't have missed a thing.
    – Submitted by Peter G (15 months ago)
    1. British Receptionist: You look like you've traveled here.
    2. Freddie Quell: How else do you get someplace?
    – Submitted by Lyberis D (16 months ago)
    1. Freddie Quell: What do you do?
    2. Lancaster Dodd: I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.
    – Submitted by Lyberis D (16 months ago)
    1. Lancaster Dodd: I would like to talk to you today about cold feet, and narrow minds. People with cold feet cannot move forward. People with narrow minds cannot move side to side.
    – Submitted by Josh E (17 months ago)
    1. Lancaster Dodd: Are you thoughtless in your remarks?
    2. Freddie Quell: No.
    3. Lancaster Dodd: Is your life a struggle?
    4. Freddie Quell: No.
    5. Lancaster Dodd: Is your behavior erratic?
    6. Freddie Quell: No.
    7. Lancaster Dodd: Are you unpredictable?
    8. Freddie Quell: [farts and laughs]
    – Submitted by Josh E (17 months ago)
View all quotes (24)

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