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The Master (2012) Movie Review

September 22, 2012

When I left the theater from “The Master,” I think I got a glimpse of how Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) felt when he was in a constant drunken stupor on his drinks laced with strange chemicals.  Whether you leave the theater satisfied depends wholly on what you think makes a great movie.  If you need a clearly explained plot with clearly explained messages, you will simply find yourself saying “What…what…what…!?”  If you, like most critics, find enjoyment in a film from quality acting alone, you will leave the theater satisfied and entertained.

“The Master” is an attempt to tell the story of the creation of the Church of Scientology through the eyes of Freddie Quell.  Freddie is living life confused and without direction after coming home from World War II and wanders into a world led by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  Dodd is attempting to practice his own sort of hypnosis that he claims can take people into the past to re-live past lives and through those experiences find peace in this life.  In true Daily Show fashion, the movie doesn’t attempt to directly poke fun at the practices of Scientology but to simply display as raw a picture of it as possible.  It is up to the audience to decide if they want to ridicule it later.

The film will absolutely keep your attention throughout, even if it is simply because you spend the entire film trying to figure out what the point of it all is.  More importantly, the quality of the acting really does a powerful job of drawing you in to understand the characters.  While most people will come for Joaquin Phoenix or Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and the rest of the cast give powerful performances as well.  We are able to enjoy these performances completely thanks to the director’s use of 65/70mm film in an age where most things are shot digitally.  Thanks to the lack of digital, the film also lets the scenes linger so that you can truly soak in all the detail.

Jonny Greenwood, who scored Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous film “There Will Be Blood,” returns to provide another score in the same style, though it manages to reach even greater heights than its predecessor.  The score is used sparsely but always to great effect.  Greenwood’s score is highly textured and emotional without ever providing melody.  The film also uses a few classic songs that fit nicely.

“The Master” is a step below masterful but it does manage to provide audiences a thought-provoking character examination.  You may not fully grasp what you see or understand the meaning of it all, but you will likely be sucked in to its world.  Just be prepared.  This is in no way a happy or uplifting film and is not for the faint of heart.

4/5

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From → Drama, Historical

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