The Master ***

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“The Master” is the latest feature film by director Paul Thomas Anderson. It is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by some spellbinding performances.

There has been a lot of controversy about this film leading up to it’s release. Is it an expose on Scientology? Now that I have seen it I think I can safely say it is got to be at least inspired by the enigmatic religion. The story though at times seems unfocused and other times too mysterious. It is almost like Anderson’s screenplay plays coy with it’s real motivations. Almost like an idea that just never really comes to the surface.

The story involves a deeply troubled World War II veteran named Freddie, played by Joaquin Phoenix. He has some serious issues resulting from the war. Fate leads him to cross paths with Lancaster Dodd played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is referred to a lot as Master and is the leader of a philosophical movement called ‘The Cause’. Eventually Freddie becomes the right hand man of Dodd, becoming absorbed in his teachings.

Phoenix and Hoffman give two of their most powerful performances and that is saying something but I just wish that the film had been more forthcoming with it’s story and not just viewed the story from the outside.

Anderson remains on of the best directors working today and “The Master” is definitely worth watching for his craft alone as well as the performances.

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