12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Stylish and Engrossing Character Study of a Cult Leader and Protégée,
This review is from: The Master [DVD] (DVD)
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddie Quell who is a World War II vet who has served in the merchant navy too. Whilst on active duty he developed a penchant for making magic hooch type mixes to get through the stress and monotony of war. On his return Stateside it is clear that he has been traumatised by his experiences. He has to attend classes for what is now called `post traumatic stress disorder' or PTSD, and it is all a bit basic, so he leaves.
After a succession of down at heel jobs and increasingly erratic behaviour, he stowaways on board the boat of charismatic cult leader, Philip Seymour-Hoffman playing Lancaster Dodd or `The Master'. He has some loyal followers who believe in his theories of time travel regress therapy. It is not long before Quell falls under the thrall of The Master, but as things develop so do the real basis for the relationship and all, as ever, is not what it seems.
To say any more would indeed be a plot spoiler. This is essentially a character study of two people and the main leads both take their character studies to the enth degree making even Mr Day-Lewis seem a bit tardy by comparison when he wears his false beard. The central performances are quite rightly at the heart of this and it is their performances that make this so engrossing. It is also brilliantly framed in nigh on every shot, with use of interesting camera angles.
Writer and director Paul Thomas-Anderson (`There Will Be Blood' and `Boogie Nights') has made a thought provoking and stylish study of the human spirit. This was Academy nominated, but got a no show. I was bemused by it at first as Quell was a bit unlikable and yet I wanted to see what happened to him. This is also a film about, essentially these two men and so is far from a rollicking adventure. The supporting cast are all top rate too and I could not spot a single dud performance, the attention to period detail is spot on and even at 2 hours and 24 minutes it held my attention through out. It will not be for everybody but I found it almost addictive and is one that you will come back to think about, lovers of Paul Thomas-Anderson's previous work will definitely want to see this.