User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 406 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 71 out of 406

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  1. Sep 17, 2012
    Another amazing epic Paul Thomas Anderson film where every facet of the film is extremely dynamic. It is very dense and there's a lot to take in whether it be the tense, grinding score, the gorgeous shot choices (punctuated by vibrant color and detail in 70mm), or knock out performances from the lead males. The physical work that Joaquin does is outstanding, I have not seen an actor as fully committed and free in a long time, perhaps since Daniel Day in There Will Be Blood. Paul's most interesting film in terms of structure/ editing, jumping through time willy nilly, perhaps mirroring the teachings of Lancaster Dodd or perhaps entering the mind of Freddie continually going back to where he is stuck (the war/ lost loves). The relationship between Dodd and Quell is tense and at times adorable, they are so in love and desire so much to have what the other has: Lancaster wants to act on impulse and not be controlled by any "Master" and Freddie whats to break this insane cycle he seems to find himself trapped in. This film will absolutely take many more viewings and I believe it will continue to grow in my mind as PT's best film (potentially). Expand
  2. Sep 17, 2012
    There is a growing chorus of hosannas greeting "The Master" that will no doubt crescendo around Oscar time, but I would like to add my voice to the minority. There are very few negative reviews for this movie. Those I have seen have usually received a stream of venom from readers, who fill the comments sections with wounded outrage. The raves, meanwhile, are telling in their own way. Consider this quote from our own Kenneth Turan ("'The Master' mesmerizes in word and deed", LA Times, 9/13/12): "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." Tidy narrative satisfactions. Here's another: "This is a superbly crafted film that's at times intentionally opaque, as if its creator didn't want us to see all the way into its heart of darkness." Anyone beginning to get a whiff of **** here? No? Perhaps we should take the advice of Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum: "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. Even then The Master is enigmatic." Well, you can't have everything. But Kenneth Turan deserves the final word: "it's disconcerting that the relationship between (Dodd and Quell) gets murkier rather than clearer as time goes on, (but) that is perhaps the point." Yes, we all love being disconcerted by murky enigmas, don't we? There's a certain feeling of sophistication that comes along with it. But this seems to me to be more like the shared thrill of a mob mentality, the kind of thing that gets dictators elected and cult leaders established, a projected fantasy of greatness that finds affirmation in incomprehensible mediocrity. We've seen it before. It would be perhaps too harsh to say that "The Master" is an example of this. There is no doubt a lot fine work on display in this film. But if I want opacity, I can always just stare at a wall. Expand
  3. Sep 18, 2012
    It's tempting to label opaque films as profound. Their ambiguity hints at a well of feeling percolating just beneath the surface, one that touches on pain, loss, sadness, everything it is to be human. But, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, sometimes opaque films are just that: opaque. They are pointless exercises in nebulous action and inactive structure for the sake of appearing profound. The Master falls into this category. It is a full 2.5 hours of unbridled fatuous nonsense. Paul Thomas Anderson, who is no doubt a talented writer/director, seems to have gotten lost in his own reputation for literary mystique, and the result is one of the more narcissistic pieces of films I've had the displeasure of watching. Be assured that if any no-name writer/director submitted this script for financing, he/she would have been met with a resounding chorus of criticism, and the project would never have gotten off the ground. The Master presents no story, no real characters, nothing beyond a handsomely shot vacuous mess. The film's climactic moments fail to stir an emotional response because they signify nothing grander than the cinematic arrogance of an auteur that relishes the label auteur. If ever there was an example of narcissism in film, The Master is it. As for the throngs of adoring fans, I would only suggest that artistic output, particularly vague, nonsensical artistic output, has the unique ability to coerce accolades by intimidation. To suggest that there is nothing profound in The Master is to open oneself up to the criticism that he/she was incapable of picking up on the films nuances. It's tempting instead to nod along with the discordant soundtrack and addled story structure and pretend to get it. But I don't feel like nodding along to this because there is nothing here to get. And the unending stream of praise might be the most pointed example of insecurity since the Emperor sauntered out in public wearing his new clothes. Expand
  4. Sep 14, 2012
    Lots to chew on here, but there will certainly be skeptics on this one, as A.O. Scott mentions. As epic as it feels in some respects, it is the smallest of epics. It follows one fairly hard to connect with man wandering and struggling and not much else, narratively speaking. There is some treasure for those who enjoy digging for it, but it is not as grandiose nor as tactually "enjoyable" as There Will Be Blood. Really, the thing *I* am beginning to most appreciate about PTA is what will drive many others away - that he's not scared of wrestling with failure. And with that sometimes comes moments that may surprise and bring something fresh to the screen, and other times one may feel he overreaches. But whereas I once maybe felt his over reaching was of an egotistical sort, I find them now to be rather selfless in a way. He has the command to make something impeccably polished and yet chooses to relinquish it, not to show off, but to explore something outside of that comfort zone. Anyway, interesting stuff. World class acting, and equally amazing score and cine. Will definitely see it again. Expand
  5. Sep 16, 2012
    I watched this film today, from a 70mm print. It is one of a handful of movies I wish I had never seen. It is slow and ponderous for the first half. The two main characters are unlikeable, which would be OK if they engaged you, which they don't. I might have sympathized with Freddie and his obvious PTSD issue if he hadn't been such a crude violent drunken jerk. The Master never felt real; portraying a faker without looking and feeling fake must be harder than I thought. All the way through this film is distinctly 1950's shooting and editing. The professional critics apparently love this; but in the theater audience it felt distinctly weird. We have moved on a long way from Panasonic 65mm cameras. This film is a throwback. If you like retro films and plots that go nowhere, this film was made for you. Expand
  6. Sep 22, 2012
    This is a very polarizing film. I recall at least three people walking out. What does that mean? If you've come to watch a typical Hollywood movie, with typical storytelling and a predictable ending, I'm afraid you might be utterly disappointed. Possibly disgusted. This film isn't for you. It's creepy, uncomfortable, awkward, tense, exhilarating, vile, hilarious, somber, and beautiful. The lead actors deliver stunning performances. Their on-screen relationship is natural and believable. The supporting cast is also brilliant, there are no weak links in this chain. The unsettling, off-putting, gorgeous score from Jonny Greenwood is near perfect. The cinematography feels new, fresh, inspired. There is nothing else like this being done in major Hollywood productions. Without sounding pretentious, this film is a piece of art, first and foremost. If you want to see a beautiful film made by a director and actors at the top of their game, this just may be the film for you. Expand
  7. Sep 22, 2012
    In the end, the film is self-important- a hodgepodge of shiftless vignettes that add up to something tiresomely less than their sum. An incredible acting performance from Phoenix is diminished and finally dissolved in a stagnant reservoir of anti-plot where the maddening fact that nothing ever happens is justified audaciously and insultingly by the old highbrow notion that each non-happening is so meaningful in itself as to make the need for story irrelevant. Adding salt to the wound, the audience is consistently made to feel guilty and ashamed for its terribly middle class inability to appreciate or connect with such a vaunted and critically acclaimed "masterpiece." Viewers are finally left to wonder if even Scientology itself could take their eleven dollars while offering such straight-faced, masturbatory nonsense in return. Expand
  8. Sep 23, 2012
    I use metacritic to help make my movie selections, so someone needs to say this! Yes, good acting. Yes, unusual music, though disturbing. Yes, good cinematography that you expect for any movie. But expected for any movie is a plot, a story, a reason to exist, to watch, to understand, to persuade, to enjoy or even to hate. There's nothing here. After 2 1/2 hours, thankfully it ends and you're grateful that you at least had a comfy chair and hot buttered popcorn to waste your time! Expand
  9. Sep 27, 2012
    Hypnotic and mesmerizing. I felt entranced throughout many portions of this movie. Such a beautifully filmed piece of work; and the score by Jonny Greenwood was both jarring and unsettling, helping to maintain the unique observatory tone of this film. Is it possible for Joaquin and Philip to split the best actor Oscar? They keep you engaged at levels I've hardly experienced before (and Joaquin's physical presentation is astounding!). The film explores so many ideas and leaves so many questions unanswered I don't know where to begin. I definitely plan on seeing it again! Expand
  10. Sep 17, 2012
    This movie is not fast-paced, unthinking entertainment. Rather, it is an eery, haunting exploration into the minds of two madmen and the general cult insanity of America in its 50s. Through outstanding performances, Anderson takes us through the painful, moment-by-moment mix of reality and delusion, fantasy and belief which is the hallmark of cult life and followers. Often humorous, but always disturbing, this film is unlike no other. The themes have no easy answers, so there is no neat bow and tie here. This is a landmark movie which makes any viewer think twice - about loyalties to any group or individual based on need. Expand
  11. Sep 18, 2012
    For me, this movie was a case of the critics serving the cool-aide and us moronic masses following their leaders (cult)! While I'll admit that the individual performances were good, the collective was an uninteresting mess. I had zero connection to any of the characters and could have cared less what happened to them. Dreadfully long, dreadfully boring. Our entire group simply hated it.
  12. Sep 23, 2012
    I am with the other 19 reviewers giving this a negative review. People think way too hard. Any one who was coming out of this thinking that the movie was some grand statement or beautiful work saw a different movie than what I saw. I kept wanting to leave the movie, and didn't--just because I thought maybe, just maybe it would get better in the end. I have never run out of a theatre as fast as I did when that was over. It was really just a bore, and made me very, very upset, and taught me not to use Metacritic to pick which movies to see. Please don't see this. I'll feel bad if you do. Expand
  13. Sep 27, 2012
    If Malick, Antonioni and Kubrick had a baby he would have made The Master. This may be be PTA's most impressive movie, but you need to give it time to digest.
  14. Sep 16, 2012
    It's an absolutely beautiful film - shot for shot - especially if you're seeing it in 70mm. A couple of shots, actually, were probably the most amazing I've ever seen (ie., the boat leaving SF Harbor). Phoenix and Hoffman deliver absolutely phenomenal performances - I was transfixed by the first couple of "processing" sequences. The jailhouse scene is incredible. What prevented it from getting a higher score from me what that it loosened up toward the end and lost some focus. It simply wasn't as coherent and tight as the artists best work - There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, et al. Expand
  15. Feb 28, 2013
    ok phoenix is pretty awesome as an actor but the plot is grotesquely pointless and you will be cheated out of nearly 3 hours of your life if you watch this literally plotless movie.
  16. Sep 23, 2012
    I went to see this movie because Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman were in it and it had great reviews. I think at the time it had an 88 here on Metacritic. That is pretty much a no lose situation. Well there are always exceptions to the rules.... OK first let me say I found the acting of Joaquin Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to be brilliant. That being said this movie was excruciating to watch. My favorite part was the end because that signified the last of my suffering. I never cared about the story itself or the characters involved. I kept waiting for it to go somewhere or get interesting but for the most part it never did. If you want to see brilliant acting and don't care about the story then I highly recommend The Master. If you want an interesting/entertaining story then I would select another movie. Expand
  17. Sep 22, 2012
    This movie should be called "Blah, Blah, Blah". I tried to love it. I wanted to love it. I admire and respect all the creative artists involved. It was pretty. It was well acted. But somewhere in the second hour (it would be incorrect to call it an "act", there are no "acts" in this film), I found myself wanted to chew through my arms to release myself from the theater. Perhaps if I had seen it in 70 mm the drive, character arcs or (god forbid art house movie lovers)... the PLOT might have been revealed in greater detail. As it was, I left shaking my head and wondering what I could have done if I got those 2 1/2 hours back... Expand
  18. Sep 22, 2012
    I wanted to like this movie because the director has made great movies in the past, but this movie has no redeeming value whatsoever. Two lead characters who are jerks from the very beginning of the movie to the end, what was the point? It seems to me the movie was some kind of joke played by the director on the audience, why do you hate us mr. Anderson? What did we do to you? I wanted to walk out because of how intensely detestable these characters were but I stayed until the end hoping something redeeming would happen. I want the 2 hours of my life I wasted on this movie and my money back with an apology mr. Anderson. Expand
  19. Sep 23, 2012
    I have never seen so many people walk out of the theater about halfway through the movie. To those of you expecting an Oscar-caliber film, while it may undeservedly be nominated for Oscars, this movie is nothing but a collection of beautifully shot but meandering scenes. There's no story, no narrative arc, just two unlikeable characters interacting in crazier ways. It becomes tiresome, fast.
  20. Sep 26, 2012
    This is a great film that requires multiple viewings and thoughts. Here
  21. Sep 23, 2012
    This is a mesmerizing film. I haven't a clue if it's a good film, but it sure struts itself out as one. The acting is beyond superb, even if Phoenix made me squirm with his part psycho, part PTSD, neanderthal, as loose a cannon that ever strode the silver screen. It's not a profound film, just made to look like one, but the film making is awesome. And I would love to see the Director's cut. It reminded me a lot of Orson Welles best work, minus the heavy metaphors (except of course the sand lady). It's as quintessential American as any movie I've seen. Power, religion, ego, violence, unconscious self loathing, all wrapped into one complicated, and perplexing picture. And scene after scene of either/or hold your breath, squirm in your seat, shake your head tension, or all three. Expand
  22. Sep 24, 2012
    This is by far the best film of the year! The Master has two incredible performances (Phoenix, Hoffman), beautiful cinematography, and a powerful message. This film will tear out your heart by subtly exposing people for who they are at their core. I believe this to be true for all of the masterpieces creating by Paul Thomas Anderson. Bravo, sir, bravo!
  23. Sep 24, 2012
    Cinephiles are not animals. We are not part of the animal kingdom. This movie is not for animals. Animals will not enjoy this movie. Cinephiles will enjoy this movie.
  24. Sep 22, 2012
    If this show is considered good - then I don't get it! Although, I don't consider myself a prude and can tolerate brief nudity this was BEYOND my tolerance! The whole theme of the movie was disgusting and nauseating! This is really about degenerate men doing degenerate things. I saw no redeeming qualities in the men or the show. Some of the scenery was beautiful - but is spoiled by what goes on in the movie. I can't think of a movie I have watched that was a disgusting as this one - the only 10 it gets from me is 10 for disgusting. Expand
  25. Sep 21, 2012
    Whenever the critics rate a movie above 80 I start to get nervous. The closer to 100 the movie gets to 100 the chance the movie will be either great or an "artsie" disaster. This movie was long, dull at times, and its message was obscure. It wasn't a disaster but too "artsie" to be enjoyable. Most in the theatre left with a look of "what did I just spend 2 hours looking at". I gave the movie a solid 5 Expand
  26. Mar 3, 2013
    A long lamentable movie that has no positive qualities. It is among the most lifeless pieces of cinema I have ever seen. Why people love this movie is beyond my comprehension; it is just deplorable on every single level.
  27. Sep 23, 2012
    A masterpiece and one of the best films of all time. If you dislike this film, then you shouldn't watch movies. Beautiful, haunting and flawlessly executed in all areas, it's a movie that will be analyzed and talked about for decades
  28. Sep 21, 2012
    Some people go to a movie to sit back, relax and be entertained. Others don
  29. Nov 22, 2012
    As usual the user reviews are better than the professional critics. This film is surely epic in the sense that it has some amazing acting and some nice scenery and the sort of spaciousness that There Will Be Blood had. BUT.... pretty much nothing actually happens. Get it later on DVD and you will soon be drifting off and checking your email while the characters sit in rooms talking. The plot is almost literally non-existent (apart from 'ex-sailor gets involved in religious cult') but really... it gets more and more boring as it goes on and the ending is very very lacklustre. It just sort of gives up. Almost as if there were no ideas. Style over substance. 90% of the film is people in rooms talking, about 8% Joaquin Phoenix's character swigging booze or looking perplexed, 2% action. ie some actual engaging movement on the screen. At no point do you really give a toss about the main characters and what happens to them, as aside from some moments where JP starts to get programmed by the cult, he's really not a likeable character in the least and the cult leader himself is shown as no more than a clever manipulator not really any kind of vulnerable human being. Expand
  30. Sep 22, 2012
    I could not, for the life of me, believe in the premise of the movie, that the Seymour-Hoffman character was supposed to be this charismatic figure people flocked to. His character was so uncharismatic, so completely banal -- why would any of the characters in the movie be interested in anything he said? I was bored beyond caring halfway through the movie and wished I was watching Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry instead. Expand
  31. Sep 23, 2012
    I sat through this movie for almost 2 hours wondering where it was going and when. Maybe it was to artsy or just over my head. Whatever it was, I haven't been so confused about a movie since Memento, even Memento made you think. The master will probably win an Oscar, it only made me feel like I was punked.
  32. Sep 28, 2012
    This is a great movie. It's as captivating as any of PTA's work but maybe in different ways. This film isn't about competition like There Will Be Blood but more about a teacher/mentor relationship unlike any other. It would be easy to write Phoenix's character as a pure audience surrogate but instead we get an unreliable source who could actually benefit from guidance. Shot beautifully, there are enough breathtaking shots that would worth seeing it a second time but in 70mm if given the chance. The performances are also spectacular. Unsurprising Hoffman is the star here. He's able to create a charisma that makes you understand why people are drawn to him and yet you can see the gears in his head moving. His character is thinker whereas Planview was an animal in the way Hoffman detests. Phoenix is excellent as well, bringing more to his character than just his surface mannerisms. Adams is also very good. Expand
  33. Nov 23, 2012
    Beautifully crafted, perfectly acted and a genius score to go with it. But, you cant help feel that the storyline was rather weak. you really want to connect with the characters and really get into the film, but it just doesn't seem to give as much as you want it to. Saying that it is still a brilliant piece of cinema!
  34. Apr 27, 2013
    The power house performances from Phoenix and Hoffman help create some of the most mesmerizing scenes of 2012, and Paul Thomas Anderson has a great eye for scenery. However, I felt that the story ultimately meandered around the concept of cult and towards the final act fell apart for me, leaving a sense of unfulfillment. It is not his best film to date (that honor still goes to 'There Will Be Blood') but any fan of Paul Thomas Anderson will find greatness through the failures. Expand
  35. Jan 10, 2014
    A film with two great performances by Phoenix and Hoffman and great character development. Another fantastic uneasy soundtrack gives this a feel similar to There Will Be Blood, although this film seems even darker in tone. Worth more than one viewing
  36. Sep 24, 2012
    After the brilliance of "There Will Be Blood", I was really looking forward to this film. Like many of the other users stated, I get nervous when the experts starting lavishing out the high praise as I have found that means really slow and boring abot 50% of the time. Well, this film is is dreadfully slow, boring,and untethered. "Tree of Life" was an action film compared to this snoozer. I think I got the outlines of the plot but they sure could have added something in to the emptiness to engage the viewer. Phoenix's drunken, violent persona was a one dimensional bore after two times and Hoffman is a great actor but he didn't have much to work with. My viewing friend kept asking if I wanted to leave but I stayed to the bitter end. An end that did not come soon enough. Dreadful! Expand
  37. Apr 1, 2013
    Excact same experience as There Will Be Blood. The first time you'll notice the amazing acting but the film with seem pretty empy. The next time you watch it you see all sorts of potential in it and the acting will seem even better. Every time you watch it after that it will seem rich and full, and you'll realize P. T. Anderson actually truelly knows what he is doing. My favorite movie of the year, and DD Lewis was great but I wish the oscar went to Jaoquine. Did you know his brother was River Phoenix? I somehow didn't know that till recently. Anyways, I digress. Expand
  38. Sep 22, 2012
    There Will Be Hyperbole. The critical acclaim and the great performances are to what end? (I hope this movie does not precipitate any external or internal psychiatric events.)
  39. Mar 12, 2013
    PT Anderson is one of the greatest talent's in American cinema, for one simple reason; He does not pander to the masses. This is a beautifully directed character study of a charasmatic man trying to levetate above animalistic biology and his antithesis, a man destined to succumb to them. At no point does Anderson give in to character exposition or reveal his intentions. The acting of both male leads was sublime. Phoenix, doing enough in my opinion, to best Day Lewis in Lincoln. The Oscar snub for Best film and director was clearly a reaction to the Scientology basis, even though this is not strictly a film about Scientology. Expand
  40. Dec 29, 2012
    Critics have been desperately prostrating themselves before The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson
  41. Feb 14, 2013
    My wife and I both felt that this was an assemblage of progressively weirder scenes rather than a story... and there was truly no one in it to like. To take the talents of these main actors, all of whom I love, and have their intensity in service of this thin gruel is pretty disappointing. Gorgeous to look at, and the mise en scene was brilliant, the period was presented wonderfully. That began to be odd in itself. Why be so faithful to this period if there was not a compelling story within it? The story could be either true or somehow dependent the era. This assemblage of mild depravity was neither. So I gather it was mainly in exercise in style. Expand
  42. Mar 3, 2013
    This film plays more like a fevered dream than like realist history, so people expecting some sort of conventional narrative may quickly lose patience with this movie. They may also be missing something special. In addition to being glowing symbols more than they are conventional characters, neither Freddie Quell (Jochain Phoenix) or Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffmann) is especially likable. But the performances suggest emotional and historical truth in ways that are often moving, without pretension or sentimentality. Freddie Quell is a figure of the American male id, post World War II: violent, sensuous, insatiable. He's driven to drink drafts of American industry to quench his burning: the fuel of torpedoes, the fluids of photography, institutional cleaners, all mixed with the fruits of the earth. Dodd, "The Master," is a new-model super ego who might tame and direct Quell. Dodd is smug as a baronial magnate, as full of literary pretensions as Tom Sawyer; his resolve is borrowed from his steely wife (Amy Adams). Hoffman's Dodd, contrary to rumors about the film, is not a charismatic, psychological autocrat, but is wounded, defensive, and dreamy. He lives out a fantasy of priestly insight and command, but few people really believe him; he gets the benefit of many doubts. As Quell is drawn to Dodd's fantasies of mind over history, Dodd is drawn to Quell's energy and chemical inventiveness. Together they suggest different means of achieving atomic-age versions of the old American goal of obliterating the past and standing alone in a new present. They also suggest the polar tensions of raw animal desire and magisterial fantasies of triumph present in many American men. Quell's desire to consume, dominate and love the earth (Quell is obsessed with a woman sculpted in sand) meets a rhetoric of platonic self-mastery in Dodd. The preposterous incongruity of the men and their desires does not result in a drama of control and exploitation, which audiences may expect, but in inchoate attempts at mutual understanding in several scenes that are more humanly intimate and dramatically resonant than most sexual episodes in movies. The 70mm "real film" photography in this movie is amazing; many of the film's strongest moments, including those with people, are wordless. An irony of the film is that lush and magnificent nature (the Pacific ocean, the Arizona desert, the San Francisco Bay) is often overlooked by Quell and Dodd in their self involutions. Nature in American writing often becomes a symbol of self; it automatically is for these two. But nature may have the last word, in an ending that is unexpectedly funny and tender. I rate this as one of the best American movies. Expand
  43. Sep 23, 2012
    This movie had a 30 minute plot that was stretched out over 2+ hours. Sure the acting was great, but there just wasn't enough meat in the story to carry it. Seems an accurate view of the beginnings of scientology-like cults though. I almost walked out a couple of times, and was very glad when it was over
  44. Aug 1, 2013
    This is a public service announcement: Do not waste your money on this flick, we paid $1.00 at Redbox and stopped the movie 30 minutes in due to 'not wanting to waste another 2 hours of my life' on such a morose, insignificant, depressing, weird movie. These actors (who are superb, by the way) tried to save it, but couldn't. Other uses of my $1.00? Would have preferred the dollar menu at McDs or maybe a dime bag to forget I rented this slop. Expand
  45. Sep 30, 2012
    First, my PTA credentials: I have consistently named Magnolia as my favorite movie of all time ever since it was released. It still is.

    Second, only two words needed for The Master: Extremely. Boring.

    I am so disappointed. PTA, please go back to the kind of story telling you are The Master of.
  46. Mar 3, 2013
    I have never seen a movie that got on my nerves more than the Master. Boring is actually the least of the problems. From the pace, to the incoherent story, to the horrible ending, the movie is utter garbage. The movie goes nowhere and by the 20 minutes into the film you want it to end, problem is you have another 2 hours of hell to sit through.
  47. Feb 3, 2013
    Where do I begin with this mystical masterpiece, and where do I end? Off the heels of his modern day classic, The Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson constructs yet another challenging art film that’s sure to mystify and perplex viewers across the globe in The Master. The film follows Freddie Quell, an unstable drifter fueled by alcohol, who recently returned from the Second World War. Plunged deep within his most basic animalistic instincts, Quell stumbles upon the charismatic, self-actualized man known as Lacaster Dodd, who leads a movement (cult!) called the Cause. Dodd sees this man as a new challenge, and the film treks his attempt to tame this beast that is Freddie Quell. Is Dodd truly the Master (as he is commonly referred to in the film) or is it Quell who has mastered and embraced his animalistic instinct… One could even go further to question if Dodd’s wife (played with chilly precision by Amy Adams!!), who seems to be married to the Cause, has more clout than she lets on. Clearly inspired by scientology and its founding father, L. Ron Hubbard, the movie attempts to indulge us without being too candid. Its open ended-ness begs you to question whether there was any real resolution or if the extensive, thought provoking process was worth it. But these are the raging questions that make you appreciate this complex piece of work even more. Anderson constructs a masculine ballet of words, between man and animal. Both men played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix (Quell) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Dodd). Phoenix channels much rage and aggression in a difficult role and Hoffman, conversely, channels a lot of charisma and wit (which may come across as easy) in an equally difficult role. Adams also gives one of the best performances of her career in this film; as the enigmatic, Peggy Dodd. With its brilliant editing and cinematography, not to mention the score that was a character of its own, the film proved to be a feast for the mind, eyes and ears. Next to Cloud Atlas, The Master is the most ambitious films of 2012, that’s expected to endure decades of analysis and reinterpretations. It is simply the year’s best. Expand
  48. Feb 5, 2013
    Superbly crafted, The Master is the ultimate contemporary Avant-garde film. The complexity of the story and the lack of dramatic coherence and unity, combined with richly colored cinematography, Greenwood's brilliant score and Anderson's nearly unprecedented artistic talent rich in philosophically adventurous and thematically exploitative spirit, makes The Master a layered statement against conventional narrative and determined resolution. Therefore, it sustains its marvelous and enigmatic opacity and many may find it very difficult to deal with it. Nonetheless, even those who find it difficult to digest Anderson's lack of transparency and non-eventful story, should be able to find a lot to enjoy in, e.g. the masterclass performances. Besides the grand aesthetic values, the film also explores themes such as post-war American society, its psychological, emotional and moral structure, the western's world principles of freedom and the conflicting yet absorbing authority of the master, the loss, weirdness, sadness, mental illness, belief, accompanied with suggestive philosophical ideas such as the impossibility of reconstructing and ultimately, facing one' s past. Expand
  49. Sep 23, 2012
    The maddening and precipitous nature that ran rampant across Joaquin Phoenix
  50. Sep 23, 2012
    The Master left us confused and a little empty. Hoffman and Phoenix deliver dramatic portraits that take us nowhere. None of the characters were very likable.
  51. Sep 25, 2012
    I really can't wrap my head around why people hated this movie so much. I think alot of it has to do with expectations. i personally didn't love There Will Be Blood, so I went into this with no expectations. While it did have a few problems of its own, it was the most fantastic film-going experience I've had in a LOOOooong time. It doesn't have a cookie cutter narrative, and it certainly speaks in metaphors...lots of visual poetry and character development as metaphor. The narrative really exists inside the audience's mind. If you're not willing to think a little, you're missing out. I think American audiences are just a little too spoiled and ADD for this type of film in the 21st century. Maybe I'm wrong. I just really want to understand what people hate about this movie. Expand
  52. Sep 28, 2012
    This is an amazing film, but you can't go in expecting it to be an L. Ron Hubbard expose in the style of There Will Be Blood. Like all PTA movies, this changes the game.
  53. Sep 28, 2012
    This is my first review on Metacritic. Odd that I would finally choose my first review on something that felt passionless. I go into every movie with my mind open wide, ready for an experience I will remember. This movie did have some great cinematography, but not much else. I guess I also should give the actors a great deal of credit for portraying lunacy at its finest. Yet, we never really know any of the characters. They exist almost as if they are in our dreams representing some kind of strange, obscure beings. I did not walk away with much of anything and feel as if someone reached in my head and scrambled up my brains. I keep hoping to piece something together, but thus far I cannot seem to do it. I am a bit disappointed and confused. Although, maybe..just maybe it is nothing more than a master of trickery on all who partake. One who is in a cult, follows blindly into the darkness hanging on for dear life. The audiences follow movies and directors in a cult like way at times. Most of us follow do we climb aboard this ship of praise for this movie or do you we stand apart from the crowd and say"what the heck was the point?" Expand
  54. Sep 29, 2012
    This is just as brilliant as any other PTA film... and it even provides more food for thought. The fact that so many people found this "stupid and pointless" while they the loved Inception just goes to show you that all you need to satisfy most movie goers is a couple guns and explosions.
  55. Oct 8, 2012
    This is my favorite movie (yes of all time). I'm not sure who should take credit for it either. Joaquin Phoenix had a breathtaking performance, along with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Paul Thomas Anderson did a fantastic job directing, especially during the single shot realism takes. He chose to use an old Panavision camera and shot in 70 mm and it looks better than any other movie that I have ever seen. The DOP Mihai Malaimare Jr. did a fantastic and notable job on this film as well. A masterpiece. Expand
  56. Nov 21, 2012
    Difficult and depressing. On the one hand, the acting is sensational - both Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are clearly amongst the greatest actors of their generation, and are absolutely compelling to watch. On the other hand, why put yourself through the trauma of watching horrible characters being horrible to each other and everybody else for about three hours? Occasionally humour, humanity and redemption do peek through, but it is still a bit of a slog. I had the same uneasy reaction to "There Will Be Blood". If you liked that, you will probably like this. But is this kind of relentless psychodrama a good night out? On balance, this is abject pandering to the desire of actors to stamp their authority on their art. Nevertheless, this movie is certainly different to anything else that is coming out, and as such deserves an airing. Just be aware that the subject matter and tone is unforgivingly dark. Expand
  57. Mar 3, 2013
    The acting prowess of the trio of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joachim Phoenix, and Amy Adams that made this worth-while for viewers. Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is fabulously well-acted and crafted--no question, but it's the material that is not clear. It has two performances of Oscar caliber, but how do they connect? "The Master" won't likely impress the audience of his earlier masterstroke. A film that starts off seeming like the best of 2012 slowly becomes a chore to sit through. It didn't have to be that way. The things that are lacking in "The Master"--are those any good screenwriter could have fixed. Alas, Anderson wrote this one himself.

    Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a soldier back from the Second World War who's finding it hard to adjust back to society, given his violent tendencies and is usually in a floating world of his own, fueled by his own deadly mix and concoction of any liquids he can find to develop into bootleg alcohol. In his drunken stupor one day he stumbles upon the boat full of followers of The Cause, and as a stowaway gets to meet the charismatic Cause leader Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who decides to take him under his wing, with Freddie's ability to conjure up some of his magic juice a plus to have around the community. It's a toss-up as to what Freddie requires most a master, a sponsor, or a shrink and Dodd vacillates between all these roles when he takes Freddie on as a pet cause. For the next half hour, the film explores the odd bond that develops between this brilliant, articulate master manipulator and this confused, tongue-tied grifter. The Animated the first half hour soon slows down-- and then--sooner than later, grinds to a halt as "The Master" becomes a series of episodes. Just scenes from life inside a burgeoning cult-like organization.

    If you're hoping for insights into Scientology, or some kind of expose, there are none to be had. The movie's focus remains on those two men, Freddie and the Master, but there's really very little to explore there, and so the movie, ever so slowly and yet ever so definitely, begins to sag and then cave in. What made this film compelling to watch despite its scenes that seem to linger in indulgence--and requiring patience to sit through scores of repetition--are the powerhouse performances. Ultimately it's a plain sailing affair, with only its great performances to thank and shore up what's lacking in strength of story. "The Master" is a film that is too vague or compelling about it's Cause.
  58. Jan 25, 2013
    Just because it's unconventional doesn't mean it's bad. Audiences need to stop being repulsed at the thought of being challenged by a film. This is one of the best movies I've seen, because it has so many layers. I could go back many times and get more and more meaning out of it.
  59. Jan 17, 2013
    This film is genius. but lacks a story and ultimately looses the audience with it , this film was SELF INDULGENT, and didn't speak to the audience its too far ahead of its time i' m sure in 20 years it will be voted one of the best films.
    The acting was definitely down the Oscar path but the cinematography and the screen play feel like they belonged in a gallery or a art house book. I
    love this sort of film but I just think the master missed the mark.

    a true 'marmite' film it or hate it
  60. Mar 3, 2013
    What a rambling movie. I really tried to get engaged but the plot just kept on bouncing around. I did find that acting excellent by Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but they could not overcome the ramble. Cinematography was beautiful; scenes were well shot and crafted. But too slow a pace, too thin an understanding of the characters, too much boredom,
  61. Mar 10, 2013
    Paul Thomas Anderson continues to prove that he's one of the best directors going today. If you want a film with superior acting and outstanding dialogue then I would highly recommend The Master.
  62. BKM
    Feb 28, 2013
    It's official: The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson's strangest film to date, ousting Punch Drunk Love from the top spot. I'll admit that I'm not entirely sure what to make of this shapeless jumble aside from the fact that Phoenix and Hoffman give masterful performances and that Anderson is, I think, exploring the psychological makeup of delusional mystics/prophets and the minds that are drawn to them. The only thing I can say with any certainty, however, is that it is painfully pretentious and dull. I was truly hoping for more from one of the most talented directors working today. Expand
  63. Oct 5, 2012
    This is my second review. The first was for "Tree of Life". This is not much different. While Paul Anderson dispensed with dinosaurs and psychedelics, the rest was a puzzling, endless, Mobius strip: no beginning, no end. Like "Tree of Life", this movie was crafted for the critics and the various "chic" critics awards, not ordinary, even intelligent movie goers. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant in virtually every role and is again in this one, thus the score is 1, not 0. The question is: to what end? Joaquin Phoenix mumbles endlessly, from one unintelligible sentence to another. He is incomprehensible. This movie is pointless and endless. Save your money. Expand
  64. Oct 21, 2012
    Obviously, those who enjoyed this movie or thought it was profound have never lived in California, where unhealed healers abound, and everyone gets suckered at least once. I did think it was well acted, especially by Joaquin Phoenix, but by 2012, the con is an old one, and there isn't much more to say about it. I am sorry that this pretentious and arduous effort is getting such big play. Many more imaginative movies out there! Expand
  65. Aug 7, 2013
    This is pretty much the worst movie I've ever seen. Good acting, but what for? There's no plot. They should either say that in the summary or just leave it blank. An absolute waste of time.
  66. Nov 18, 2012
    Truly remarkable performances from Phoenix and Hoffman, with the former (Freddie) portraying an navy veteran, a true outcast and degenerate, unable to conform, always following his instincts in contrast with the latter (the Master) who has it all worked out and will not reason with anyone who does not believe in 'The Cause', a philosophy of life he introduced and cultivates and promotes through his method. When the two men are brought together, they inevitably effect one another, with the Master inspired the animalistic behaviour of Freddie whilst Freddie goes on a journey to find himself. I would not be surprised if this film wins a number of awards especially for acting. Expand
  67. Sep 7, 2013
    The film is beautifully shot, making full use of the various surroundings they find themselves in. The use of music from the period was quite effective also, not always to my taste, but it seemed to fit pretty well. As to performances, well, all the major parts were excellently portrayed with Philip Seymour Hoffman standing out. I found I really paid attention to every scene he was in; without him, meaning no disrespect to the other actors involved, it kind of fell flat. I though Amy Adams was excellent too, although I felt she was underused. There appeared to be an awful lot of improvisation, particularly from Joaquin Phoenix and I found these scenes very hit and miss. I sometimes felt like I was watching an acting class. As far as the narrative goes, well I found it meandering; it was very slow (not that this is always a bad thing) and when we did get to a point it would then go off in a totally different direction. Over all, it didn’t stand out as the particularly outstanding work the critics seem to think it is; but then again, I don’t have to watch all the dross they have to on a day to day basis. Maybe I have to watch a lot of really bad films and then watch this one again, but for now it’s ‘Recommended’, but only just.

    SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

    My score: 6.1/10.
  68. Sep 24, 2012
    Joaquin Phoenix returns to the screen as an extremely troubled WWII vet, who falls in with a religious cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The somber tone that pervades this film would have you believe that it
  69. Jan 9, 2013
    It looks stunning, sounds stunning and is superbly acted. There's no denying Paul Thomas Anderson's ability to make a film except for me The Master is pretty incomprehensible and as a result feels extremely overhyped and very unsatisfying. Disappointing.
  70. Sep 22, 2012
    Maybe the film went over my head, but I took nothing away from the Master. No feelings, no questions, no discussion. The Master is a film that sets out to tell no particular story, in no particular hurry. The characters are paper-thin, and really only give us glimpses of anything truly interesting. Make no mistake, the acting is superb, but I fear everybody is mistaking the wonderful acting for an overall enjoyable experience, film, and directing. Sure, Anderson tries a lot of different things to make it seem like an important film (shooting in 65mm), but he never made it a captivating one. If many take away nothing from a film other than adoration for the director, then is it really a film worth seeing, or is it simply fodder for the critics? Collapse
  71. Mar 21, 2013
    I tend to love dark and weird movies but this one, just didn't work at all for me. A matte of fact, I thought it was completely retarded. Experience at your own risk.
  72. Oct 3, 2012
    A good movie is inherently defined by its pleasurable viewing moments, and this movie delivers very few. The loosely jointed plot never knits itself into any kind of coherent narrative, nor are there characters with whom one can identify or for whom one can root. It is much easier for a film to abandon the demands of solid story telling, and this movie takes the easy way out in every sense.
  73. Jul 21, 2013
    The Master with Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman altho the acting was very good the story was repetitive and unfulfilling. My understanding had been it was about an L Ron Hubbard type charlatan and a mentally crippled WW2 soldier looking for something. It sometimes got a hit but more frequently seemed comatose and missed the ball...I expected something more incisive and not obscurantist poetic. Expand
  74. Nov 17, 2012
    It's enigmatic trailer drove a lot of curious minds to the theatre in the hopes of gaining clarification on the mystery P.T. Anderson presented. What we left with instead were many more questions. The film is, undoubtedly, a puzzle. P.T. Anderson's usually straightforward, grounded style is eschewed in favor of a centrifuge of ideas and emotions all tossed around, reminiscent of Slaughterhouse Five's blend of moments to create tone while still throwing the audience andy time it thinks it has a grasp on the meaning of the work. The film's "message", if it has one, doesn't become clear until long after one has left its seat, and the internal debates the film instigates will last even longer. With cinematography as sharp as There Will Be Blood and performances as stellar as Magnolia, P.T. Anderson's puzzle is a glorious one, and one well worth solving. Expand
  75. Oct 10, 2012
  76. Jan 12, 2013
    Whether a movie is good, bad, opaque or an epic, it should never be boring. And, in my opinion, this film was boring. Joaquin Phoenix´s acting was very good, but acting very well a bad script is a bad result. Some situations were absurd, in the bad sense of the word. The characters, except that of Mr. Phoenix´s, were not well delineated, and the directing was all over the place, something not surprising given the poor script. The basis of the story was good, but it needed a good development. This film lacks a good development. Expand
  77. Jul 9, 2013
    Paul thomas Anderson has once again made a movie that almost reach perfection; not only because of the beautiful cinematography, the unique soundtrack, and the amazing actings. But because of the fact that it's strenght comes from the little intense moments, and the deepness of the characters; not because of a story. The screenplay is great as it is. It is a proof that a film doesn't need a complex storyline to be great. Expand
  78. Nov 10, 2012
    I would not recommend for mainstream movie-goers. It's a visually impressive display of equally impressive performances, but the lack of a traditional narrative will likely alienate most audiences. This is not a "normal" movie by any means.
  79. Sep 27, 2012
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. One thing that will drive me to go see a movie is the widely varying reviews here on Metacritic - like those for The Master. A lot of people hated it - A lot of people loved it - and as a Hollywood citizen who has to walk by Scientology centers offering me free personality tests, or their Museum of Death (by psychiatry) to get to the Cinerama Dome - I was already a bit intrigued - plus I was having a boring day and thought I'd kill a few hours and make up my own mind.

    Seeing it in 70mm on the big screen I admit it looked good, but I wasn't as impressed as i thought I'd be. The acting was really great and it had it's moments but overall it was just the story of two screwy guys who don't really do much - One likes to drink poison to get high and basically has no life worth living, the other has created a floundering monster of a "religion" that involves past life regressions, a farce he must believe in to keep the bills paid. Somehow they both find comfort in helping each other - maybe the only time they can escape their personal hells? I found the film well made and well acted but I found it hard to care about any of the characters much. The cinematography was good but nothing really took my breath away. The music seemed overly dramatic at times and for some reason there were a number of scenes with groups applauding - where the sound seemed to have been eq'd to be loud and annoying. Overall i found it to be a well made, well acted, mediocre story about two mediocre men who got the mediocre life they deserve. It would have been much more entertaining if the story had its own perspective and/or cast one of the characters as the good guy or bad guy. But like many wimpy modern films it takes no perspective and makes no judgements. It just shows us how dysfunctional people can be with no opinion. It's funny - this is how I wish the reported the news - just the facts - but I prefer films with a perspective.
  80. Nov 28, 2012
    I went to see this movie because of positive critic reviews. Although there are good performances by the excellent cast, the overall movie is incomprehensible and boring. All four of us fell asleep. As a reference, I've fallen asleep during about 3 movies in my entire life. In my opinion and in general, it's a bad sign when the user score is dramatically lower than the critic score here on metacritic. Expand
  81. Sep 23, 2012
    Very sorry to have to say that The Master was a major disappointment. This one LOOKED like a "no-brainer" based on the brilliant trailer, the tremendous cast, and being written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, whose last film, There Will Be Blood, was one of the most artistic movies of the 21st century. Although the story starts off intriguingly enough with Joaquin Phoenix brilliant in the role of a WWII vet struggling with a severe case of PTSD, once things soon meld down to essentially Clash of the (psychopathic) Titans (Phoenix vs Hoffman), the story never really goes anywhere, other than to provide Oscar bait scene chewing scenes for the two male leads. Don't get me wrong, the film LOOKS great (cinematography, sets, costumes), however, the overall feeling I was left with (at least 40 minutes before the film even ended) was frustration and disappointment of what COULD have been. This one is strictly for those interested in seeing some interesting acting choices from Phoenix, Hoffman and Adams. Past that,... I fully expect The Master to be expelled from theaters before Halloween. Save this one for your Netflix que,...if that. Grade = C-. Expand
  82. Sep 22, 2012
    Technically well done but did not like it otherwise. Tedious, pretentious and too long. Not a masterpiece by a long shot. The critics have been well paid to write glowing reviews.
  83. Sep 30, 2012
    Acting was a 9 out of 10, music and cinematography was also great....story itself, not so much. My girlfriend and I left the theater completely confused about what we just watched for 2 hours....story has potential but never develops.
  84. Oct 5, 2012
    It's not a perfect film but the effect it had on me warrants a perfect score. It has the best performances of the year with Joaquin Phoenix playing Freddy Quiad and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Lancaster Dodd. It may be to long and some scenes may not work as well as they should but the overall effect of the film is undeniably powerful. At the end of the film a failed to get out of my seat it was that thought provoking and powerful. Expand
  85. Feb 9, 2014
    You will either love this movie for its long, drawn out philosophical banter or you will dislike it for its incredibly slow pacing.

    The first 30 minutes of the movie I had no clue what I was looking at, the next hour I quite enjoyed and the last 45 minutes I was just wishing for it to start making sense already. They've thrown some great actors into the mix and I didn't bother verifying
    it but I believe the movie was based on Ron L. Hubbard which is always a good subject but the pacing and the length did it in for me. Expand
  86. j30
    Oct 4, 2012
    The Master is the movie to beat this year. If you want a movie to think for you go see something else. Without a doubt the movie will polarize it's audiences. But what did you expect from Paul Thomas Anderson? The same person who brought us "There Will Be Blood," "Boogie Nights," and "Magnolia."
  87. Oct 6, 2012
    I believe this is a fine film.Forget everything except the interplay between "the Master" and his acolyte-Fred, each of whom is unforgetably portrayed. There is an underlying and far from explicit suggestion of homosexuality between the two men, plus the explicit portrayal of master-slave relationship. Fred has a family background of psychosis and alcoholism, while master demonstrates strong evidence of domination.The movie moves slowly which is its main failing, but disregard allbut the two men, their strengths and weaknesses. A strong Oscar contender for picture and best actor(s). Expand
  88. Oct 21, 2012
    This has potential - as with Anderson's other spectacular films - to be one of the most important pieces of cinema in the past 50 years. It's a story of power, control, desire, moving on, and relapse. It's magnificently acted, terrifically scripted, and gorgeously shot. This is the epitome of electrifying filmmaking.
  89. Sep 30, 2012
    Barely watchable, self indulgent, boring and a complete waste of the viewers time. The acting is great. Unfortunately the script hangs like a dead weight around their necks. Audible snoring in the theater and I almost wished I could have joined them, but the noise was keeping me awake.
  90. Jun 25, 2013
    Paul Thomas Anderson continues to mesmerise us with his gripping and powerful and intriguing techniques of film, and the journey doesn't stop with The Master,even if the film never fully let's us in on the whole plan.
    Joaquin Phoenix also proves once again that he is one of the finest and most hard working actors of his time with his performance as Freddie Quell, a man who Phoenix could
    have you convinced is very much real and sitting next to you, his personality erratic and broken after finding it extremely difficult adjusting to life after serving in World War II, his behaviour lands him in various amounts of trouble as he decides to take up portrait photography, but is continued abuse of alcohol and sexual obsession causes him nothing but problems, then Lancaster Dodd comes along, played by the growing phenomenon of acting that is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who in the film plays a man who is the leader of a movement of what can be outlined as free thinking and overcoming all sorts of issues, he truly has all the answers.
    His approach to therapy along with his family is frowned upon by many, they stay in the houses of their followers while his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) sees that Freddie may be their downfall. The true outline of the film is how human behaviour and a large array of personalities can collide, Quell is damaged, erratic and full of surprise, almost bipolar, while Dodd is a collected and content man, with goals and ambitions always in his sight, his motives are unclear and these are indeed hidden from the viewer, a technique that works on many occasions, but at times can become puzzling and may be misinterpreted.
    A score from the same composer of There Will Be Blood has its important and pivotal part in this thrilling film, a mixture of sombre but upbeat tones perfectly mirrors the difference in characters who are bound to collide at some point.
    The opacity that people are diving at to destroy the film is the ideal way for the viewer to interpret this film how they see fit, the movement that is prominent throughout the film is reminiscent of Scientology, and while not as horrific as The People's Temple, the flashes of mastery and looking to one true person leave it to the lucky viewer to decide exactly what is happening, plenty of questions lead to an array of interesting answers.
    A powerful and enthralling effort that will not cease to amaze in terms of performances and writing, you won't get these performances "staring at a wall".
  91. Sep 25, 2012
    I love to see all of P.T. Anderson's movies, but I might give up after this one. He seems to have locked onto the idea of making movies now about the least likable characters possible. Whereas most films create an idealized portrait of humanity, lately he goes the other way, creating movies with grimy, grisly characters who seem to have very little redeeming qualities, if any. In "There Will Be Blood", I was okay with that because I thought it was just for one film. But he delves even deeper into darkness with "The Master", and this felt more like an assault against the viewer in its dark mirth and creepiness than the real telling of a story. The acting is, of course, incredible, but the biggest problem, for me, was that he seemed to take us to very dark places without it feeling like there was a satisfactory justification. I didn't feel like the film had any payoff. It was very interesting, and the acting was great, but it was super dark, and to me unsatisfying. Expand
  92. Oct 14, 2012
    Great acting from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, but the film is boring and self-indulgent. It is way too long; it doesn't go anywhere. It's definitely way overrated by the critics.
  93. Feb 12, 2013
    Perceived as my most anticipating film of 2012, THE MASTER is Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambitious comeback after THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007, 9/10), 5 years interval may be too long for PTA fanboys, but again the wait is unmistakably deserved. Post-WWII, a USA naval veteran inadvertently hops on a yacht one night and is hooked on a cult named “The Cause”, lead by its eloquent yet irascible master, while being an avid follower of the master, his perennial booze-abusive, sex-driven, violent nature enables himself to be the soul needs salvation, a side-kick and a role model, it also encroaches his mental realm and life orientation, eventually challenges his loyalty with The Cause and the master. PTA’s trademark roving and tracking long-shots maintain as engaging as any directors could ever achieve, not obtrusive but impeccably tally with the storytelling; the retro-soaked palette authentically establishes a mystic aura of the inexplicable internal mechanism of how our emotion rises and falls, attended by a rhythmic score from Jonny Greenwood.

    Joaquin Phoenix gives me a first impression of Michael Shannon (whose TAKE SHELTER 2011, 9/10 is among my top pick of 2011), in a far gaunter figure, he embodies his character so devotedly and destructively, it is a privilege to appreciate his hunchback stance, the unique way when he speaks (English words evade me now, help?), his exuberance, his furore, his confusion and his determination. The erosive bitterness conceals in his gawky body is compelling and he is a war victim, a damaged good seeking for a rejuvenation, the master and The Cause may or may not cure him, anyhow, he still possess his free will, if only the power of repetition works. Philip Seymour Hoffman, doesn’t need too much physique alternation though, is equally mesmerizing if not too overbearing, his mind-blowing delineation of the master’s polarized volatility is another textbook archetype of performance art. Amy Adams, whose fourth Oscar-nomination in 8 years has wrought some dissent here, accomplishes an amazing expressionless supporting performance, her role doesn’t require any ostentatious flare-up, but each time her composure and relentlessness exudes disparate feelings from inside (blithe, haughty, disdained, confident, commanding, suspicious, disgusted, etc.), and her “milking the cow”coalition with Hoffman is simply petrifying. Grabbing only 3 acting nominations (with faint possibility to win any of them), THE MASTER’s bumpy Oscar-road is far from triumphant compared with THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but time will testify whether it is an overlooked masterpiece or an elusive piece of self-indulgent, but no matter on which case, one cannot deny that it heralds that PTA is most probably on his way to be the Stanley Kubrick of our generation (not least suggested by the evocative nudity scenes which seemingly pay tribute to the masked orgy in EYES WIDE SHUT 1999, 8/10), and it is a tremendous blessing for all the cinephiles.
  94. Mar 9, 2013
    "The Master" is too good to be written off as bad, but not good enough to be recommended without reservation. I think the director (PT Anderson) was going for an Kubrick-esque "Eyes Wide Shut" vibe, the camera lingers too long, there's discordant music accompaniment, and a nude women scene that's more cringe-y than enjoyable. Anderson was definitely driving a parallel to LR Hubbard and Scientology's earliest beginnings, no doubt, and the insight had some value. Juaquin Phoenix's portrayal of a derelict alcoholic was Oscar worthy but I still didn't like the character or his journey but those affected by alcoholism may identify with him. Overall, the pacing was too slow, I was on the FF button alot, and there was just minor entertainment or information value, so I can definitely understand why some think it's a waste of time. I personally wouldn't recommend it unless you're a Scientology groupie, someone affected by alcoholism, or a fan of the cast. Expand
  95. Sep 21, 2012
    The Master, the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie, with Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix, and what happen? The movie is AWESOME, have an interesting story, with an incredible development, the characters are awesome because the performances are really great, and the screenplay wow, cool. I love The Master.
  96. Sep 1, 2014
    Every so often we get a film that challenges us--this is that film for 2012. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman each give some of their finest work. With such boldness and poetry through the eyes of Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master will not be easily forgotten.
  97. Oct 4, 2012
    The movie attempts to throw light on the cult phenomenon in America; instead it shrouds it in darkness. The training scenes, based as they are in mind numbing repetition, are an ordeal to sit through. Joaquin Phoenix is a brooding presence but often is inaudible (a mercy?) Hoffman is superb. There are some sensibilities who will acclaim this a masterpiece; others a pretentious bore. If you are in doubt, wait for the sure to come satire of it on SNL/ Expand
  98. Oct 7, 2012
    I think that if you had no idea who PT Anderson is you could pick out his movies by now. He has created another wonderfully atmospheric film full of broken multilayer-ed characters. This film falls short for me where many other Anderson films have, I don't care what happens to these characters, I never become emotionally invested in them. For me that is what keeps most of his films from going from very good to great. However I don't know if I want Anderson to create those types of characters because his films always haunt me for weeks, and his characters are so ambiguous that I find myself in wonderment of who they are and where they came from. Phoenix and Hoffman, and Adams for that matter, are all excellent in this film. Phoenix and Hoffman's scenes together are mesmerizing. Their characters are so emotionally complex that we become immersed in their misery and desperation. I am immensely looking forward to revisiting this film again in the future. Expand
  99. Oct 27, 2012
    The longest 2.5 hours of the year. Unmitigated crap, self indulgent, pretentious and most of all boring. Oh yeah, excessively overacted as well. Anything Hoffman and Phoenix act in, the critics love. Even this terrible excuse for a movie.

Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 43
  2. Negative: 1 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Emma Dibdin
    Nov 4, 2012
    With potent performers and poetic visuals, Anderson has made the boldest American picture of the year. Its strangeness can be hard to process, but this is a shattering study of the impossibility of recovering the past.
  2. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Oct 29, 2012
    An often brilliant '50s-throwback character drama that never feels nostalgic, with terrific central performances and a luminous, unforgettable visual beauty.
  3. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Sep 21, 2012
    The Master is above all a love story between Joaquin Phoenix's damaged WWII vet, Freddie Quell, and Philip Seymour Hoffmann's charismatic charlatan, Lancaster Dodd. And that relationship is powerful and funny and twisted and strange enough that maybe that's all the movie needs to be about.