The Master is pure Paul Thomas Anderson. Following on from There Will Be Blood it uses the same trademark juxtaposition of sweeping landscape and two men in a room, alongside the heavy use of the magical Jonny Greenwood soundtrack and is breathtaking from beginning to end.
The Film follows a World War II veteran who becomes entangled in a cult which promises to solve his emotional problems of violent outbursts and a heavy reliance on drink. It is a film which neither comments nor judges, merely observes and with very sparse narrative it is one which lends itself to this kind of impassive reflection.
Despite the very small amount of conversation this is most definitely a character driven film. It is one where when a conversation does take place it will involve two people, very close up camera work and will last for ten minutes. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as the leader of this cult is fantastic and he is completely believable as the charismatic yet psychotic leader with the ability to make people believe him. Amy Adams’ performance as his wife is also wonderful as she appears to sink into the background whilst fiercely driving him on all the while. But it is Joaquin Phoenix as the emotionally damaged soldier that you cannot take your eyes off. He is utterly mesmerising and omits any need for the flashbacks explaining where he has come from and what he has been through; it is etched deep into his face. It comes through in his hunched posture and the way he holds his hands on his hips, not as someone asserting themselves, but as someone who is tired and has been through far too much.
Certainly, it will not be to everyone’s taste, very little happens, and despite the quality of the performances, these are not characters you are necessarily rooting for. But this is film that, much like the repetitive beat of its atmospheric soundtrack, will well and truly get under your skin. Images will stay with you, you will mull the story over and over in your head, but first of all you must definitely see it.