Phips’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't know if there is a film that I have more eagerly anticipated than this one, definitely not in 2012.
I can't explain how happy I am Joaquin Phoenix's "mental breakdown"/career change was a hoax. I have always thought that he is a fantastic actor and from what I've read, he appears to be at his best here.
This film has gotten alot of hype, especially Oscar and other award buzz, and I have tried to manage expectations but I fear I've failed as I am expecting this to be really really really good. I hope I'm right.
Well....Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is too smart for me. I'm fairly positive there were some parts that went over my head, primarily involving Joaquin Phoenix's character.
This film definitely, definitely had some odd, head-scratching moments. Those, combined with the slow, plunky pace, "lack of action", and long runtime may put many modern moviegoers off. I don't think the over saturated superhero film market is ready for this. Someone else put it perfectly, this is another one of Paul Thomas Anderson's "challenging films for serious audiences"; sadly, those who want to see challenging films or are part of the serious audience are few and far between these days.
I did think this ran a bit long. At 2h25m it felt like it trudged on quite long enough, and its slow, methodical pace didn't help it. I don't mind slow paced films..not at all..but with this particular subject matter, director, script, and runtime, it was a little too slow for me.
Much like Take Shelter this film really is all about the two main actors' performances. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are brilliant. Both are superb in their respective roles and I will be absolutely shocked if both of them are not nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars and if they don't clean up the other, smaller award ceremonies. The only thing that did bother me was Phoenix's mumblings in certain scenes due to his character's interesting mouth movements as I couldn't understand what he was saying at times. Moving on, I have to admit, I liked PSH more that Phoenix in this film. Amy Adams (let's not forget about her) is good as well but her character is basically "fluff" to give the audience a break from the overwhelming presences of Phoenix and PSH.
Those ocean shots were just...breathtaking. The seas of change. Relaxation. There sure are some gorgeous shots in this film that, after seeing TWBB, I come to expect from PTA.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jonny Greenwood's score. His PTA sophomore effort utilizes numerous percussion instruments and is fairly string-heavy and absolutely perfect. Right from the beginning of the film, the score meshes with Anderson's film in the way that all score should. Bravo.
If The Master isn't up for all of the main categories at the Oscars I will be outraged and shocked. Paul Thomas Anderson created another masterpiece, no pun intended.