A violent loner finds an unexpected home in the company of a
budding new religion and their charismatic but intimidating leader.
The Master (2012)
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Rami Malek, Jesse Plemons, Laura Dern, Ambyr Childers
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix),
Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman),
Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams)
The Master is a strange but conceptually brilliant film that shows the mental and sociological dangers of a cult mentality. It's no secret that Paul Thomas Anderson used the infamous L. Ron Hubbard and his cult of Scientology as the basis for his charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd and The Cause. It's a story decision that likely ended the friendship between Anderson and Tom Cruise. But Anderson uses this correlation in such a smart way. He makes Dodd his own person, with only a sprinkling of L. Ron throughout, so as to avoid a lawsuit from the church and create a brilliant new character that stands out as a true hidden villain of Anderson's work.
Throughout The Master, we follow disturbed and lonely WWII veteran Freddie Quell (Phoenix), an unlikable, dangerous man with no direction in his life. While on a bender, he ends up on a ship captained by Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who takes a shine to Freddie and invites him to join his Cause, a cult built on the idea that emotions can be cleansed through certain unorthodox exercises. Freddie becomes Dodd's right hand, and at times, acts like his enforcer. The relationship becomes toxic, so much so that it frightens Dodd's wife Peggy (Adams) and threatens to bring down the Cause itself. The greatness of the film is built on the incredible trio of performances from Phoenix, Hoffman, and Adams. Like all of Anderson's work, it's unique and not for the faint of heart. But it's worth the watch.
The Master shines as Philip Seymour Hoffman's last great performances before his death in 2014. He dominates this movie as Lancaster Dodd, a deluded man who believes himself to be a visionary or the most successful con-man of the age. And the film never really lets you decide for yourself. He's obviously a con-man, but his talent at manipulating damaged people like Freddie is unmatched. Hoffman and Phoenix do some of their best work here, and while the film wasn't a financial success, it will go down as a gem of the 2010's.