Alan's Review of The Master
Technically brilliant but narratively slight, this will not be everyone's cup of tea (I certainly prefer his narratively stronger Magnolia or There Will Be Blood). Breaking down the elements: the cinematography is awe-inspiringly beautiful - every scene is a tableau and the colours pop; the music is effective in drawing you in while unsettling you at the same time; and the direction is (pun-intended) masterly. Then we have the acting: Hoffman underplays an enigmatic character and his portrayal is nuanced and awards-worthy. I also like Adams' character who is quietly menacing in the background. But I am constantly distracted (or is it disturbed) by Phoenix's Freddie who speaks like he had a stroke on half his face and his demeanour seems odd and almost demonic: is he a man reduced to a husk of a shell by the War? Or does he just have anger issues? Which brings us neatly to the writing: I get it - Freddie is lost and aimless - and perhaps the Cause in this case helped him whether or not the whole thing was a sham or not. The script refuses to judge and this ambiguity seeps throughout the film making it a whole lot less accessible to its audience. It is no doubt original and uncompromising but you cant help scratching your head and ask as one venture bleary eyed after 2 1/4hrs: WTFJH?