Scott Anderson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Roughly a month and a half ago back in late July, I experienced the absolute treasure of a film There Will Be Blood for the first time. When it was over, I was floored by how great it was, and in my review I clarified that I had not yet fully embraced Paul Thomas Anderson as the divine filmmaking genius the rest of the world considered him to be. Prior to There Will Be Blood, the film most had considered to be his masterpiece was Magnolia, and frankly I hate that film. It is a brilliantly constructed, beautifully executed film that I get absolutely zero enjoyment out of watching. I practically counted the minutes until it was over the two times I screened it, and honestly I'm not even 100 percent sure why I loathe it so much. I simply cannot make a connection to it.
With There Will Be Blood, I started to recognize the auteur PT Anderson really was. The greatness of that film really resonated with me, so imagine my surprise that such a short time later, it would drop to my second favorite work of his. Experiencing the stunning wonder that is The Master is a game changer for me on how I regard his career going forward.
The cinematography of this film is something to behold, a brilliantly crisp image filled with colors that perfectly represent the era in which the film takes place. The look and feel of the film is so powerfully perfect, it actually managed to make me feel nostalgic for a time that I never even came close to existing in. I was born in 1984, yet I felt like I was transported back to 1950 and could actually see these lives taking place then. The score of the film, occasionally beautiful and at times unnerving, is absolutely perfect to showcase the war being waged inside Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) as he tries to balance the calming intellect of the Master Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his own desire to be drunken, angry, and sexually perverted.
Speaking of Phoenix and Hoffman, their performances in The Master are unbelievable, honestly one of the greatest combinations I have ever seen. Phoenix gives a layered performance filled with pain, anger, regret, and inner turmoil that he portrays perfectly even with just a simple facial expression. Hoffman is so remarkably charismatic, so likeable and charming yet also powerful and confident, that I not only believed he would be able to assemble a following of people, at times I couldn't help but want to join them. I, too, could sit in a room and listen to that man speak, fall under his spell. The two lead roles exemplified casting at it's finest.
The Master is top notch filmmaking, a masterpiece, and the official moment I placed Paul Thomas Anderson on my radar as one of the greatest of his craft working today. After watching There Will Be Blood, I made the observation that the final scene of that film felt very Kubrick-esque for whatever reason. Now after totally losing myself in this film, the thought entered my mind that perhaps it goes beyond that one scene, and in fact we are watching this generations version of Stanley Kubrick at work with Anderson. A man who many years from now will be regarded as an absolute artist. Time will tell, I suppose.