The Master

The Master ★★★★★

Uncompromising, complex and insanely intense.

It's hard to characterize or categorize P.T. Anderson's latest American masterpiece, it moves slowly through a series of interactions between the emotionally-damaged war vet, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), the dubious leader of a cult labelled The Cause, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his equivocal but powerful wife, Peggy (Amy Adams).

The Master demands your patience and will probably require a second viewing to absorb it fully. What the plot is actually trying to say is uncertain but the answers are not given comfortably and will always be up to discussion.

It felt almost tragic in a way, the cruel hope that Lancaster promises to Freddie with the impossible notion that the possibility of past lives can affect the current lives we live but in a way, Lancaster himself doubts his own believes only to manipulated by his wife who been consumed by the ridiculous idea. By the end, you see no hope just eternal sadness.

As I said, it's tough viewing but aided by some wonderful performances. Joaquin Phoenix has probably delivered one of the finest performances in film history, the caged rage behind his eyes, right down to his torturous posture is searing cinema that left my eyes glued to the screen. Philip Seymour Hoffman beautifully underplays Lancaster, while disturbingly deluded he comes across as sensitive and vulnerable. Amy Adams is a revelation, insidious in her actions and you feel that she's the real fire behind The Cause - in a way it's her words through Lancaster's mouth.

It's not a flawless film, you do wonder what has made Freddie into a such damaged soul, you earn to get under the skin of Peggy a bit more (Adams screen time does seem a bit limited during a 144 minute running time) and while it's a long film, the ending seems a bit abrupt, like there was a number pivotal scenes left on editing room floor.

Nevertheless, it doesn't reach the masterful heights of There Will Be Blood but this is striking, riveting cinema that bursts with emotional panache and blistering originality.

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