"You are simply awful. A true scoundrel in every sense of the word."
Let's pretend that this movie hasn't been discounted as a time period drama and that Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't look just like L. Ron Hubbard. Or that the pseudo religion started by PSH's character in this film doesn't sport the same eerily similar tendrils of Scientology. Or that there are not any people in the world that intellectually molest others into believing their far fetched dogma with promises of a grander existence. Lets take this film for what it is: exceptional. The Master will become one of the most talked about pictures of the year once award nominations start being garnered and frankly I am a little surprised at the lack of protest from members of Scientology regarding how their movement is portrayed or even at the very least, what this film is insinuating.
The movie is simple. And dry and brooding and poetic. We are introduced to Freddie Qwell in the opening scenes and quickly learn that he is a tragic, war torn figure willing to drink just about anything he can get his hands on to help him cope with life. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a masterful performance of this memorable character and should hopefully finally take home some hardware for his talents. While out on a drunken escapade, Freddie winds up stowing away on a small charter boat headed for NYC. On board is the surly Lancaster Dodd, a self proclaimed astrophysicist-writer-philosher sent from space to save mankind from our true animalistic selves. Dodd is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest actors alive in my humble opinion. PSH is a Jedi and his role in the movie is easily worth your time and money. In fact I wish there was a tip jar at the picture house. After Dodd establishes the "Cause", what follows is the unpredictably twisted relationship between Lacaster's cult and the criminal minded Qwell. While this movie may not be the most exciting, riveting, action packed film you see, it will by far stage the highest level of acting you will come across this movie season. PSH and Phoenix are truly remarkable craftsmen and watching their interactions on screen is joy. This review could have taken several different turns as what lies at the heart of this movie is something worth talking and thinking about. While you are here to read reviews and not my rants on human maniputlation, I will end with this: see this film. Then get out there and find somebody to rant about it to. Kaboom.