J M’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review is also available to read on my blog.
Okay, I must confess: I’m sitting here, trying to think up of a good way to do this film justice, and it’s not working for me. This is an amazing piece of art. Not just filmmaking, but art in general. In the five year gap between this film and There Will Be Blood, PTA could have easily lost his talent. Described as a wunderkind by many due to his sheer talent, his reign as an independent filmmaking king could have ended at any time. Hell, anyone could just lose “it” at any given time. I mean, Boogie Nights? Magnolia? There Will Be Blood? You gotta’ really know your shit to make films like these. PT Anderson’s originality could’ve dwindled, and he could’ve faded away into the abyss of the forgotten.
Except he didn’t. Five years was enough time to prove to everyone that Anderson, despite already being two years into a new decade, can still remain relevant to a new generation of film lovers. He returns with nothing held back, opening with a scene that sets the tone for what’s to come. This is a very character driven film, placing a special emphasis on the acting to advance the plot. It centers on Freddie Quell, played by a simply amazing Joaquin Phoenix, a Navy veteran who is in the most fucked up condition following his time in the service. You actually begin to wonder if it’s alright to judge him despite the fucked up things he's done. He stumbles upon the religious movement The Cause and it’s Master, Lancaster Dodd, played by an equally amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and every scene with these two in it is cinematic magic. Also a big driving force is Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, Peggy. And no, she’s not here to serve as the film’s pretty face. She plays a pivotal role in both the film’s plot and the movement’s structure, and I’d hate to continue with this clichéd phrase, but she’s not all that she seems.
I just can’t get over how great this film is. Neither will anyone else. If you’re a patient, serious film lover, these two hours are just going to whizz by. It’s takes its time to develop the story, and if you’re willing to give the film a chance, it makes the pay-off very well worth it. It's really up to you and your tastes. Upon viewing, you’ll notice that many pieces of the puzzle must be placed from the contents of <span style="text-decoration: underline;">your</span> "box." It is a film that is very open to interpretation without feeling the need to be pretentious.
Honestly, this film could very well become a new classic. We’re only a bit into the new decade, and this film already feels timeless. Anderson gives his audience another beautifully shot, well composed, and very concentrated work of art. By utilizing well-constructed set pieces, a glorious score by Jonny Greenwood, and a character-driven plot, Paul Thomas Anderson has done it again. And I feel ashamed of myself leaving it at this, because I already exercised my vocab at its farthest possible point. The Master is a film that, and I guarantee you this, will not please everyone. And that’s okay. I mean shit, it shouldn’t have to pander to your needs, get over yourself…. But if you’re willing to give it a chance, be open minded, and dedicate time to peeling back every layer of its complex storytelling, it will prove a joyous and rewarding experience.