Scientology has been the butt of many jokes throughout the years. Accused of being a criminal organization and cult, this religion has fascinated many. It was only a short amount of time before they made a movie about it. Academy Award Nominee, “The Master”, has been accused rather repetitively of being about the early history of scientology’s foundation and exposing the harsh reality of the things that typically go on within those secretive walls. However, is this just an accusation based on coincidence, or was it more founded on known truth?
Joaquin Phoenix stars in this film as Freddy Quell, a recent war veteran that has an abundance of issues. These issues are interfering in not only his life, but those around him, effecting his role in whatever job he tried to maintain. Things don’t really get too terribly interesting until a half hour passes, and we are introduced to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Lancaster was the leader of an organization known only as “The Cause”, which believed in such things as past lives, reverse-hypnotization, and time travel. It starts off as a smaller organization, but as we watch the film progress, the organization obviously reaches new heights and popularity.
Without question, the acting performances as a whole were astonishing. You won’t believe the level of professionalism that these actors must have went to when preparing for their roles. The standouts were obviously Phoenix and Hoffman. Both of these lead male actors have been proven to stand out above the rest in their level of acting, but in “The Master”, the reach new levels when you almost forget you are even watching them. You have seen them so many other times before, but for some reason, they seem incredibly different now.
This film is incredibly cryptic, which would match well with the secrecy of scientology, if it were indeed based on that. It will end up making you think afterward, and maybe even return for a double viewing, just to make sure you understood everything. There is a lot of information in this film, so make sure you pay close attention. Yes, it can feel slow and yes, the movie is over two hours long, so just stay with it. Whether or not you liked the movie, you will be able to appreciate it for what it was.
So was this movie about scientology? It is abundantly clear that it is indeed. If you are unfamiliar with the history of scientology and how it really came about, do some researching before watching this film. You may be surprised. Also, make sure to study up on the founder of scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, who I believe Hoffman’s character, Lancaster, was modeled after. There are some theories also floating around that Phoenix’s character has some history that ties into Hubbard’s life, but it is clear that Lancaster was the main inspiration.
One major issue with this film, apart from the slow vibe, is that it has no real plot. At first, you may want to claim it is coming-of-age, but that’s not it either. If anything, it is the opposite of coming-of-age, as the organization is destructive. There are no real goals of the character, as even the film stated “He’s making it up as he goes along”. If you don’t like to watch a movie that feels as if the filmmakers were “winging it”, than however good or bad the film was, you’re just not going to enjoy it and should stay away.
Artistically speaking, the movie looked beautiful. The cinematography, the shots, the lighting, all with the well-written dialogue really made for a beautiful-looking movie. So all-in-all, the movie looks great, sounds great, had amazing performances, and no real solid plot. Depending on who you are, that may be the breaking point. So ask yourself how important plot really is, and check out “The Master” when it comes to Blu-Ray and DVD on Feb. 26!