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Generally favorable reviews- based on 399 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 70 out of 399

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  1. Mar 16, 2013
    Modern self-indulgent rubbish. Too long. I gained nothing from watching this. It's nicely photographed, but that is a given in the 21st century. The acting is fine, but this is a review of the movie as a whole. Don't waste your time.
  2. Mar 15, 2013
    One of the most interesting and highest quality movie I have seen for a long time. The acting was superb. Mr. Joaquin Phoenix and Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman acting was more than brilliant. Amy Adams was also great in her role. What is that movie about? I think it is a character study and a meditation on the human desire to find its place in life. This is shown through the life of a "lost" man who is looking for happiness, a purpose and a bond with others (a family of some sort). This way He (Phoenix) bumps into the Cause, and meets the Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The Master is a man who is also kind of "lost" in life, and tries to find his happiness and place trough the cult he is leading. In the movie we see a snippet from the life of a cult and the people behind it. These people (like many other people) try to find a meaning behind their life. I think this was the main theme of the movie, beside many more themes... in my opinion Expand
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. 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,
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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
  13. Feb 27, 2013
    I consider Anderson's "The Master" to be one of his weakest narrative films. Yet, Anderson's weakest film can still be considered as a great film when compared to other film maker's works. While Phoenix and Hoffman's performances were phenomenal, they really out shined their supporting cast. The screenplay and plot were above average in comparison to other great original screenplays such as "Amour" or "Django Unchained." What really stood out in this film were the technical elements. The directing, music, editing, and cinematography had a unique Paul Thomas Anderson signature. This same signature that brought some of the best films of the 2000s. Anderson is, in my opinion, one of the greatest auteurs of his generation. It is difficult to meet the standards that you have set yourself. I'm still a fan!! Expand
  14. Feb 26, 2013
    The Master symbolizes our inner fight. Our friend, ruler or foe. Unexplained human reaction explained by ghosts of the past. Group that practice no sensitivity judges the stranger as feeble-minded but they all envy him on his freedom. People create conditional love unconsciously... Beautiful pervaded philosophical work.
  15. 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
  16. 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.
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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.
  20. Jan 23, 2013
    If you hated this but loved Tree of Life, you need your head examined. Both are prime examples of an auteur filmmaker getting the opportunity to make pictures that go against Hollywood norms for the sake of their own artistry. It's a miracle a movie like The Master can even get made when the entire industry's sole purpose is profit. A movie like this doesn't get made to please the masses. Paul Thomas Anderson deserves credit for, once again, writing and directing a film that is reminiscent of Kubrick or Welles. Anderson's films appeal to an audience that enjoys great acting and character over repetitious conventions in plot development. Only a handful of movies like this get made a year that end up getting a nationwide major theater release and audiences should be welcoming it, rather than admonish it. Don't bother with The Master if you honestly believe Skyfall is worthy of a Best Picture nomination. Expand
  21. Jan 22, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Alla fine, uno si chiede: ma Freddie, in fondo, ha sempre e solo considerato importante il sesso? Forse non la più profonda tra le tante domande che possono nascere dalla visione di 'The master' ma, come tutte le altre, è impossibile fornire una risposta certa. Nel film che, per molti, è stato il vincitore morale dell'ultimo festival di Venezia, Anderson (suoi anche soggetto e sceneggiatura) si limita a raccontare, senza l'esigenza di dare spiegazioni o esprimere giudizi: se Lancaster Dodd può ricordare vagamente Ron Hubbard, La Causa si rifà a Scientology come potrebbe ispirarsi a qualsiasi altra setta basata sul condizionamento mentale. L'interesse del regista è incentrato sulle dinamiche interpersonali: la più importante è quella tra i due protagonisti principali, ma le altre sono comunque necessarie per delineare il microcosmo in cui si svolge l'azione, a partire dal rapporto (di forza) tra Dodd e la moglie Peggy. Da tutto ciò si possono dedurre con facilità due considerazioni: si tratta di un film complesso, tutt'altro che immediato anche perché la storia è quasi solo un esile pretesto (motivo per cui l'opera ha la sua schiera di detrattori fra coloro che pensano che due ore così siano eccessive o inutili); perché ogni cosa funzioni, è necessaria una maiuscola prova d'attori. Il che puntualmente accade, con un cast ben assortito e funzionale su cui giganteggiano Phoenix e Hoffman (con relativa pioggia di premi e nomination che coinvolge anche Amy Adams che è Peggy). Il primo interpreta Freddie, un marinaio reduce della Seconda Guerra Mondiale con più di un problema annidato in una psicologia incline alla violenza, dandogli una camminata e un modo di parlare da Braccio di Ferro vestito come Humphrey Bogart (ah, i pantaloni a vita alta..), ma mantenendo in miracoloso equilibrio un ruolo a forte rischio caricaturale. Il secondo è invece Dodd, pifferaio magico capace di parlare molto senza dire nulla e riuscendo comunque a condizionare le menti di chi ne subisce il fascino fino alla commozione, come la Helen Sullivan nei cui panni ho ritrovato, dopo una vita, Laura Dern. Freddie entra nella sua orbita, complici anche i fortissimi liquori che egli stesso fabbrica, ma, pur restando coinvolto nel rapporto maestro-allievo (anche se 'maestro' non rende appieno l'originale 'master'), riesce a mantenere sempre una sottile linea di resistenza alla completa sudditanza :è vero, qualcosa ci perde Expand
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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.
  25. Dec 29, 2012
    Critics have been desperately prostrating themselves before The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson
  26. Dec 26, 2012
    2 hours and 24 minutes of what seems to be rather an astonishing performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix less than an entertaining and interesting narrative. The story lacks the gripping sense of delving into the world of a WWII veteran and his gradual involvement in a cult which aims to "cure" him and others of illness of the mind and soul. Instead it conveys a continuous and monotonous journey of Freddy (Jeaquin Phoenix) with no change in mental state or an arc for character development, nor is there really any objective/motivation of the protagonist, just a drifting nothing. For a film that I had such high expectation, the film had me looking at my watch every two minutes and counting the aisles of the cinema room before taking a sigh of relief to the fact that the film was over so I could enter the boring reality of my world which is far more thrilling than Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master'. The subtleties of the plot could be picked up on giving it artistic merit but only to the fact that sometimes the script needed to be to the point and objective focused rather than babble on about nothing with no entertainment value or character development occurring. Of course, the film appears to be highly orchestrated and a beautiful craft of screenplay/film techniques, however, it is in dire thirst of the fundamental aspect of entertain and strike interest. Expand
  27. Dec 23, 2012
    I saw the movie at the Venice Film Festival. I loved it: deep, well directed and acted in an extraordinary way. I found great interpretation of P. S. Hoffman.
  28. Dec 20, 2012
    Some will say the storyline of The Master seems basic, and told in an overly convuluted way; however, any true movie-hound knows Anderson doesn't care about what's happening on the surface. It's all about the symbolism, and The Master is filled with fascinating meanings and subtle truth, the when looked for, hit you like a bullet train. It is a magnificent accomplishment in acting, writing, directing, editing, cinematography, and score, and the best American film of the year. Expand
  29. Dec 9, 2012
    Pretentious, self consciously acted and ultimately boring film. Scene after scene drags on to little point or effect and the ending seemed vague. The three leads are not served well by the story or setting and i'm sure in a better focused film they would be considered excellent in their roles. However, that's what might have been. Paul Thomas Anderson seems to enjoy making these long and profound films and whilst I enjoyed 'Boogie Night' and There Will be Blood' to some extent I wouldn't say either of them were completely successful either. Also disappointing was the rather bombastic score. Only the cinematography shines through here. The end result was so what! Expand
  30. 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

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.