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

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Movie Info

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a troubled, boozy drifter struggling with the trauma of World War II and whatever inner demons ruled his life before that. On a fateful night in 1950, Freddie boards a passing boat and meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of a religious movement called the Cause. Freddie tries hard to adhere to Dodd's weird teachings and forms a close bond with his mentor, even as other members of Dodd's inner circle see him as a threat.

Cast & Crew

Joaquin Phoenix
Freddie Quell
Amy Adams
Peggy Dodd
Laura Dern
Helen Sullivan
Amy Ferguson
Martha the Salesgirl
Ambyr Childers
Elizabeth Dodd
Adam Somner
Executive Producer
Ted Schipper
Executive Producer
Jonny Greenwood
Original Music
Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Cinematographer
Leslie Jones
Film Editor
Peter McNulty
Film Editor
Jack Fisk
Production Design
David Crank
Production Design
Amy Wells
Set Decoration
Mark Bridges
Costume Designer
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News & Interviews for The Master

Critic Reviews for The Master

All Critics (255) | Top Critics (76) | Fresh (215) | Rotten (40)

  • The main thing is that The Master is so unlike anything else in its seriousness and so admirable in its vitality that one has to support it.

    February 25, 2019 | Full Review…
  • It is all so enigmatic and underwritten I felt rather shut out. A 'challenging' film is one thing, but one that actually slams the door in your face is quite another, as well as rude.

    September 1, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Towering standalone moments all, they are certainly impressive when first encountered, though they wobble perilously the longer one looks at them...It isn't a great film - but it has a great film rattling around inside it.

    April 9, 2018 | Full Review…
  • At least the performances, specifically from Phoenix and Hoffman, kept you engaged enough to want to finish the rest of the movie.

    September 7, 2017 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • It's a mess; it's pretentious; it is thundery with dismay.

    June 14, 2013 | Full Review…
  • 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…

Audience Reviews for The Master

  • Oct 08, 2015
    The look of the film and the acting are both stunning. The performance by Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal (not to mention Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams). It is hard to understand why others rate it very low. I doubt it is such a problem with the plot; it does exist. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. At each stage there are tensions that play out. Something about the content triggers a negative reaction in people. I will go so far as to say that this is not one of those things that come down to taste; The Master is an excellent film.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 28, 2015
    Very different in nature but original story. I did find it hard to follow and lost my interest several times. The acting is what stands out the most.
    Jarrin R Super Reviewer
  • Jan 01, 2015
    Freddie specializes in creating cocktails from anything he can get his hands on, be it torpedo propellent, photography chemicals, fertilizers, or paint thinner. His dad killed himself with alcoholism, he long lost his mom to a mental institution, and now he's just come home from the experience of killing other men in WWII. He copes with these traumas by staying inebriated, and yet the pain still drives him to violence. Yet Master Dodd, who tells readers in his cult book that man is not an animal and must do away with emotional impulses (and farting), sees more inspiration in Freddie than weakness. While being told to repent of animal instincts, Freddie is busy writing a note to the pretty woman sitting across from him: "Do you want to ****? :-)." Dodd is envious of Freddie's free and honest nature, beholden to no one, and most importantly, wholly unashamed of his animalistic self. Freddie, who apparently has missed out on experiencing an affectionate, intimate friendship, becomes Dodd's personal bartender and loyal protector against the world who challenges Dodd's ideas. It becomes apparent that the Master, the wise seer of truth, is himself a slave to two other dueling masters - booze loosens his strings, and his latest wife pulls them taught. Mrs. Dodd sees their fearless family friend as a threat to her dreams of success, and the Master has to find a reason to keep his song bird around. This reason, perhaps genuine or perhaps selfish, does do Freddie a service. What happens next teaches Freddie self control and the ability to soberly deal with his life's pain head on, eye to eye, without so much as flinching. What does a sober, functioning, and centered Freddie look like? What does he do with himself? What does he want? That's for you and the Master to find out.
    Matthew S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2014
    Phoenix and Hoffman are absolutely brilliant in this long yet rewarding film that handles its subject matter with the right balance of artfulness, intelligence, and intensity. Hoffman proves once again that he is the greatest actor of his generation.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer

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