The Master Reviews

Top Critic
David Thomson
The New Republic
June 14, 2013
It's a mess; it's pretentious; it is thundery with dismay.
Top Critic
Tom Charity
CNN.com
January 8, 2013
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.
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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
January 8, 2013
[A] challenging, psychologically fraught drama.
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
September 23, 2012
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Cary Darling
Dallas Morning News
September 22, 2012
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Christopher Orr
The Atlantic
September 21, 2012
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.
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
September 21, 2012
The Master is as confounding as it is magnificent.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
September 21, 2012
[Phoenix and Hoffman] suggest duelling Brandos.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Rafer Guzman
Newsday
September 21, 2012
It's a surprisingly compassionate look at two people: A lost sheep and his shepherd.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Tom Long
Detroit News
September 21, 2012
Both Phoenix and Hoffman are on fire within their characters. If only they'd had some place to go.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
September 21, 2012
"The Master" turns out to be more of a self-defeating whimper than the big, important bang it could have been.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
September 20, 2012
Entrancing from first frame to last. The lights go down, they come up 137 minutes later, and you're left to ask yourself: What on earth did I just see?
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
September 20, 2012
A film that starts off seeming like the best of 2012 becomes a chore to sit through, and I suspect that few, even among this film's enthusiasts, will come to the end of the movie wishing there were more.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
September 20, 2012
This portrait of 1950s America is like none you've ever seen, and it's unsettling - but the minute it was over, I wanted to watch it again.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 20, 2012
The Master is a work that demands attention, and it satisfies on many levels - it is a film of intelligence and ambition, teeming with ideas, assembled with fearless artistry.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Steve Mirarchi
Boston Globe
September 20, 2012
The film is interested in a cult of personality. Like Anderson's previous movie, "The Master" is a portrait of megalomania.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 20, 2012
Anderson's audacious films defy facile interpretation. Having seen it just once, I'm not sure I grasp it.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 20, 2012
For film fans who have lost faith in the transportive power of cinema, "The Master" will make you a believer.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Peter Howell
Toronto Star
September 20, 2012
Likely Oscar nominees both, Phoenix and Hoffman command the giant screen so completely it's hard to imagine anyone pulling it away from them.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
September 20, 2012
Warts, wanderings, reiterations and all, this is a film destined to be processed in many different ways. And hallelujah to that.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
September 20, 2012
"The Master" is fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
September 19, 2012
The film is not an epic. It's not a masterpiece. But it is an involving study of men searching, searching for answers, for belonging, for a foothold in life at a time when footholds were hard to find.
Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5
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Rex Reed
New York Observer
September 19, 2012
137 minutes of Joaquin Phoenix's nose hairs is not my idea of appetizing.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/4
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Randy Myers
San Jose Mercury News
September 19, 2012
The first time watching is like breezing past a piece of beautiful art, being stunned, uncertain and intrigued by it. The second time can only encourage more interpretation, reflection and understanding.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Michael Nordine
L.A. Weekly
September 16, 2012
What seems revelatory in the moment is often obvious in retrospect.
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Dana Stevens
Slate
September 15, 2012
I left the theater not entirely sure what The Master was about. I can't wait to get back and see it again.
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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
September 14, 2012
The movie may not even be fully comprehensible on first viewing, the bigger patterns in the narrative and the rhythms of the filmmaking revealing themselves more fully and clearly only with a return visit.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Andrew O'Hehir
Salon.com
September 14, 2012
This is an almost apocalyptic tale of thwarted emotion - love cut short - set in a pitiless land of delusions.
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
September 14, 2012
It is the work of an artist; every shot is carefully composed.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
September 14, 2012
Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is a disturbing experience in ways that matter.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
September 14, 2012
It's a film bristling with vivid moments and unbeatable acting, but its interest is not in tidy narrative satisfactions but rather the excesses and extremes of human behavior, the interplay of troubled souls desperate to find their footing.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Claudia Puig
USA Today
September 13, 2012
Aiming for epic, it's undeniably thought-provoking, but too ambiguous to fully satisfy.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
September 13, 2012
As gifts to homo sapiens go, it's a rich one.
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Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
September 13, 2012
Phoenix gives the performance of his career.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
September 13, 2012
The Master will burrow its way into your mind, heart and soul, and simmer there long after you leave the theater.
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
September 13, 2012
This is a movie that defies understanding even as it compels reverent, astonished belief.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
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Scott Tobias
AV Club
September 13, 2012
It's a feisty, contentious, deliberately misshapen film, designed to challenge and frustrate audiences looking for a clean resolution. Just because it's over doesn't mean it's settled.
Full Review | Original Score: A
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Laremy Legel
Film.com
September 11, 2012
Beautifully done, but oppressive and claustrophobic.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out
September 11, 2012
Ponderous and demanding, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest slows to a rattlesnake-swallowing-a-mouse lurch, a pace that makes There Will Be Blood feel like Boogie Nights.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Karina Longworth
Village Voice
September 11, 2012
It's a film of breathtaking cinematic romanticism and near-complete denial of conventional catharsis. You might wish it gave you more in terms of comfort food pleasure, but that's not Anderson's problem.
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Anthony Lane
New Yorker
September 11, 2012
On reflection, and despite these cavils, we should bow to The Master, because it gives us so much to revere, starting with the image that opens the film and recurs right up to the end.
Top Critic
September 11, 2012
Gorgeous to look at and an absolute feast of strong and interesting acting.
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
September 11, 2012
It's a sharply written, unforgettably directed character study with brilliant performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams ...
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Christy Lemire
Associated Press
September 10, 2012
In his first film since the 2010 performance-art stunt of "I'm Still Here," Phoenix once again digs deep to mine his character's inner torment and comes up with a mix of haunting quirks and tics.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
September 10, 2012
I believe in the church of Paul Thomas Anderson. Fierce and ferociously funny, The Master is a great movie, the best of the year so far, and a new American classic.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Glenn Kenny
MSN Movies
September 10, 2012
Quite possibly the movie of the year, or the decade.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
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David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
September 10, 2012
Anderson is a romantic who has earned his nihilism. He clarifies nothing, but leaves us brooding on our own confusion.
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Justin Chang
Variety
September 5, 2012
A sustained immersion in a series of hypnotic moods and longueurs, an imposing picture that thrillingly and sometimes maddeningly refuses to conform to expectations.
Top Critic
Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
September 4, 2012
The problem with The Master is that it doesn't extend or expand Anderson's artistic journey.
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Dave Calhoun
Time Out
September 4, 2012
'The Master' is another tale of warped power and fanatical delusions, and it sees Anderson on captivating form as a director who is able to surprise and impress with scene after scene.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter
September 1, 2012
A bold, challenging, brilliantly acted drama that is a must for serious audiences.