Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 399 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: In the years after WWII, an American intellectual creates a religion. When he meets a troubled drifter, he invites the man to help him spread the new faith. As their congregation increases, the drifter begins to question the religion he once accepted and the mentor who gave his life direction.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 43
  2. Negative: 1 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 13, 2012
    It is a movie about the lure and folly of greatness that comes as close as anything I've seen recently to being a great movie. There will be skeptics, but the cult is already forming. Count me in.
  2. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 20, 2012
    The Master is brilliantly, wholly itself for a little more than half of its 137 minutes. Then it chases its own tail a bit and settles for being merely a fascinating metaphoric father-son relationship reaching endgame. It may not all "work," but most of it's remarkable.
  3. 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.
  4. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Sep 10, 2012
    On reflection, and despite these cavils, we should bow to The Master, because it gives us so much to revere, starting with the image that opens the film and recurs right up to the end-the turbid, blue-white wake of a ship. There goes the past, receding and not always redeemable, and here comes the future, waiting to churn us up.
  5. Reviewed by: Charlie Schmidilin
    Aug 17, 2012
    Even amongst its most wrenching scenes of unfettered anger and broken loyalty, a volatile sensuality nonetheless invades every frame of Paul Thomas Anderson's arresting The Master.
  6. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Sep 14, 2012
    Yet, for all of The Master's laudable elements, it falls short of greatness for one simple reason: the storytelling is unspectacular.
  7. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Sep 18, 2012
    Call The Master whatever you want, but lobotomized catatonia from what I call the New Hacks can never take the place of well-made narrative films about real people that tell profound stories for a broader and more sophisticated audience. Fads come and go, but as Walter Kerr used to say, "I'll yell tripe whenever tripe is served."

See all 43 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 75 out of 150
  2. Negative: 56 out of 150
  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. 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
  3. 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 Expand
  4. 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
  5. 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? Expand
  6. 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. Expand
  7. Sep 27, 2012
    This was one of the worst movies we have ever seen. There are only 2 other movies we disliked more than this one! The acting was pretty good but seemed like a waste on such an absolutely terrible movie. Nearly walked out 3 times. If it wasn't for one of our friends sons who actually liked it we would have walked out. He was just released from a mental institute on Monday and hadn't seen a movie in over a year; he loved the seen of Joaquin masturbating to beach sand (no joke). He likes animals a little too much. We will not be hanging out with him again. Don't waste your money on this Church of Scientology bunk. Notice how this movie started off strong in early ratings, now that more people have seen it the user score has dropped significantly! Expand

See all 150 User Reviews


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