Paul Thomas Anderson has delivered some of the more provocative film going experiences with films like Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, but his latest may be going even further than he normally does. Even before its release The Master has been a target of the Church of Scientology due to its content, but will it deliver the unique punch his films normally deliver or will the controversy leading into it be all that will stand when the smoke clears?
The Master follows a drunken drifter who aligns himself with a charismatic intellectual who has created a faith based organization, but as it grows and gains a bigger following, the drifter begins to question his belief system and The Master himself. This is one of those movies that will affect people in different ways. The story, whether it was truly meant to or not screams Scientology. This may be the closest most real look into this world we will ever see, but as with most of these organizations we will never know the truth. The story here never really gives an outright explanation as much as feds the viewer information to create their seemingly own vision. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen much of Joaquin Phoenix, but he thrusts his persona onto screen with this return in easily his most brilliant, physical and emotional role to date. He delivers a character that is so off putting and unlikeable through the entire film you have a hard time really caring about him. While that would seem to hurt the overall film, here it seems to leave you wondering in the end what he got, if anything in the whole experience. There are really disturbing moments emotionally that are a bit hard to watch at times. He reportedly got so into character that he physically hurt himself numerous times. Hoffman’s portrayal of his character is a bit more laid back, still delivers just as much powerful emotion. As he speaks you are instantly enthralled in every word he has to say whether you want to believe it or not. These are two of the most powerful performances to hit theaters in quite some time and will no doubt be taking the Oscars by storm. Amy Adams, while not always center of attention delivers her powerful nature as the glue between them all.
This is an amazingly brilliant film that sports a sometimes intentional slow pace towards a dark journey of inner discovery. The film is beautifully shot that only adds to the already intense nature of the characters torment. It’s rare these days for a truly great film to come along that doesn’t try to use big sets or explosions to capture the audience, but here they are a welcomed change. The end of this film will leave you a bit puzzled, but invoke an emotional response nonetheless of some kind, which is exactly what a truly brilliant film should do. This blu-ray would be enough to just feature this great film, but also includes outtakes, additional scenes, “Unguided Message” a shot film, and “Let There Be Light” John Huston’s landmark documentary about WWII veterans.