The Master

The Master ★★★★½

Review from my 2012 Top Ten: #5

Moving the opposite direction to Trier, toward territories altogether more stylised and cinematically strange, is Paul Thomas Anderson, whose eagerly awaited and earnestly divisive follow-up to 2007’s There Will Be Blood sees the acclaimed American auteur probing deeply the psyche of one man and all men. Like the tantalising tension of Punch-Drunk Love’s third act expanded across two and a half hours, The Master employs a wealth of odd angles, eerie musical cues, and relentless long takes in pursuit of some degree of understanding of its central characters, a charismatic cult leader and the jaded WWII veteran he makes his chief subject. As toweringly intense as any of Anderson’s masterful directorial techniques, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman together enact a comprehensive portrait of earthly existence across their spellbinding scenes together, their exemplary performances imbuing this enormous treatise on humanism and animalism with an antagonistic ambiguity central to the effect of Anderson’s impressionism.