Thomas Lewry’s review published on Letterboxd:
Freddie Quell: What do you do?
Lancaster Dodd: I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.
I don't believe there has ever been a film that I have anticipated more than 'The Master', but a personal review on this film would be incomplete without chronicling my journey to get to this very day. Several months ago, I had tickets to go with a friend and see this film in 70mm and a live Q & A with PTA (In person!) A possible once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to miss due to a prior engagement, It is truly a heartbreaking experience when you have a chance to see one of you're idols (In person!) and have to miss it. In disarray I was able to take solace in the fact that this film would hit Australian cinemas on November the 8th, I was so excited that I finally got a chance to see this film. Then the 8th came around, AND IT NEVER CAME OUT! This is when I got pissed because I all I wanted to do was watch 'The Master' and fate kept fucking me over. Every solitary day, from then onwards I would search Piratebay for a copy of this film, So desperate to see it, IT NEVER CAME! I searched the darkest bowels of the internet in hope that maybe somewhere,somehow someone may have a copy of this film, This went on for three months until one day a torrent popped up and 'The Master' had hit Piratebay! I was over the moon in pure excitement, but then I found it was Italian and the search continued for another month until this Sunday where FINALLY a torrent popped up and my dreams had come true. The Download took 30 hours but today was the day that I finally got to see this film. Surely this film could not live up to my monumental expectations, right ?
Freddie Quell is a Naval Veteran who has adopted a chaotic and animalistic personality and tendencies following his service. In disarray about his future, Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd a cult leader who takes a shine to Freddie, and welcomes him into his lifestyle.
I had the obvious fears going into the film, that 'What if I dont like it ?' luckily those fears were dashed instantly as I will proclaim 'The Master' a Masterpiece! Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my hero's and I adore all of his work, maybe a big part of that is that he is almost like the modern day Stanley Kubrick (My Ultimate hero). The two things these incredible filmmakers have in common is that they can tell a compelling tale through visuals, they aren't filmmakers who need to hit their audiences over the head with their intentions in the form of throw away dialogue. 'The Master' may be PTA's Masterpiece when it comes to visual storytelling, There does not seem to be a single second that is wasted in this film, Every little tiny detail is all part of the giant plan and you are never willing to take you're eyes of the screen even for a mere second.
'The Master' is thought provoking cinema, at its finest. It goes without saying that this isn't a film for everyone, it is a film that requires thought, which seems to be a dirty word when it comes to Modern cinema (what with Michael Bay working and all) If you are willing to devote you're full attention to this film for 130 minutes, I believe that you are truly in for something special and fully rewarding, from a master filmmaker who is in full control of his art.
The film draws some obvious inspirations from Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard, while it is implied that Lancaster Dodd is in fact the leader of a cult that highly resembles that of Scientology, PTA never beats you over the head with comparisons. The film is incredibly written by PTA, as I stated above, he does not make films for people who aren't prepared to get emotionally invested or ready to think. The screenplay is full of some brilliantly enthralling and thought provoking, the scenes which showed interactions between Freddie and Dodd were some of the most compelling I have seen in a long time. Though I wasn't able to get the full effect due to not seeing it in 70mm, I still thought this film looked absolutely stunning, Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. did a fantastic job. Johnny Greenwood is incredibly effective, its harrowing and sombre style fit the film to a tee.
One of my main attractions to this film was actually Joaquin Phoenix, who has been one of my favorite actors for a long time. After hearing the unanimous praise for his showing in this film I was so excited to see it for myself, my verdict is that Phoenix has given his Magnum Opus, a PERFECT performance. Phoenix completely transforms himself in this film and its incredible to see, his facial expressions, posture, voice, everything is just spell binding. I really cant describe just how good he is in this film, it has to be seen, In my opinion its the finest performance of 2012. The Principal cast is rounded out by another two of my favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman who gives another phenomenal performance (which is like saying the sun rose today, its a given) and the amazing Amy Adams who gives yet another career defining performance. All three actors are just truly great and deserve all the praise they have been given and then some.
'The Master' is a incredible film, It features everything necessary to create a great film, its thought provoking, masterfully directed, incredibly written and performed to perfection. It was a long road to get to this day, but once again PTA did not let me down. The 'Master' is a masterpiece and in my opinion the second best film of 2012, I look forward to many more viewings in the future.