It's interesting to see Nolan in a slightly different mode, but he's still pompous, the editing is confusing, the whole thing with joyless. When it's at it's best, it's a color war action movie—but it doesn't really add anything new to that genre.
It's as good an action/sci-fi movie as has ever been made, and on top of it, it's a subversive, complex, yet highly entertaining examination of the cost of social order. It has held up beautifully over the past 15 years, and in retrospect, it's one of the best movies of the 1990s.
It's perfectly fine for a movie to have an elusive core, to not be about anything in particular. But when that is the case, it should at least populate the screen with enough varied ideas to invite engagement. The Master is a claustrophobic, one-track tale(?) and so the overwhelming emotions it invokes are befuddlement and, often, boredom.
The titular Master is very mildly based on Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard, and references that spell this out do the movie no favors,…