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The Master

2.9 out of 5 stars 788 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post-World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER unfolds the journey of a naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future–until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

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Paul Thomas Anderson's closely observed character study represents a reverse image of its predecessor, There Will Be Blood, in which a prospector (Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis) and his protégé (Paul Dano) engaged in an epic battle of wills. In this more tonally consistent effort, the acolyte takes center stage. Gaunt, tightly wound, and eerily reminiscent of Montgomery Clift, Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an ex-naval officer suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Since World War II, he's had difficulty holding down a job due to his hot temper and affinity for paint thinner-spiked potions, but the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman in a more subtle, but equally skillful turn) finds him irresistible as a project, a surrogate son--maybe even the shadow self that he normally keeps hidden (Dodd shares Quell's propensity for the occasional splenetic outburst). Lancaster welcomes him to join the Cause, a movement that recalls Scientology by way of Freud, since he focuses on the elimination of past trauma through a pseudo-psychoanalytic exercise called processing. If he provides Quell with a surrogate family, much like Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, his loyal wife (Amy Adams) and cynical son (Jesse Plemons) seem more skeptical. While participating in their rituals, Quell sails with the group from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, but it's hard to tell whether he really believes or whether he's just going through the motions. The lack of clear-cut conclusions will leave some viewers cold, but you've never seen a performance--simultaneously riveting and repellent--like Phoenix's before. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix
  • Directors: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Weinstein
  • DVD Release Date: February 26, 2013
  • Run Time: 144 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (788 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B008220DGE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,525 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Master" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on February 23, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
In an era when most studio movies are designed by consensus to appeal to the lowest common denominator, I have to acknowledge the true auteurs working within the system who are constructing distinctive and challenging projects. That said, I am an absolute nut for Paul Thomas Anderson and his previous film efforts. "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "There Will Be Blood" were all squarely on my favorites list in the respective years that they were released. "The Master," to my mind, was the can't miss proposition of the fall season. While embraced by critics and awarded three Oscar nominations for its performances, the experience probably connected more with my mind than with my heart. I'm thrilled that some people proclaim this a brilliant masterwork, but I'm not surprised by the negative reaction either. It's a difficult movie that defies expectations at every turn. I do credit Anderson with making his vision, in this case--it is not something that connected with me in that way that I had hoped.

When I first heard of "The Master," it was described as the first major film about Scientology that isn't really about Scientology. Set in the 1950's, the story brings together a charismatic intellectual (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and a troubled World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix). Hoffman is the leader of a new religious order (some may say cult) designed to provide spiritual guidance for those they deem lost. At first, Phoenix seems to welcome The Cause, as it is called, starting to fit in to the new movement. But the more he learns and experiences, the more conflicted he becomes. Is Hoffman a visionary or a charlatan? When the two men play off one another, the film crackles with vitality.
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Format: DVD
I was blown away by this film. The psychological realism is very demented and disturbing. I can understand why many are turned off by it. I talked to one person who said they didn't like the movie because the main characters had no redeeming qualities. Well, that's why I like the movie. So to see the film as a masterpiece first requires one to have a certain taste, to have an appreciation of characters and drama that are not attractive. Yes, the characters are disgusting, evil people, played ridiculously well by the actors. Yes, the psychological drama is absurd and revolting. This is an extremely dark film, I'd say much darker than PTA's last outing. It delves deep into human psychology, especially qualities of fear, delusion, exploitation, and rage, uncharted territory that is not commonly explored in mainstream cinema. Most do not want to explore these qualities of humanness at such an intimate level, most go to the movies for escapism and do not find as much entertainment in such forced introspection. Anyway, this film is the best I've seen in a long time. I expect it will be talked about for ages, reevaluated throughout the years and shown to be a stunning portrait of the underbelly of Americana.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The Master is a purposefully non-traditional film that most people won't like. I happened to be one of those who loved it. If you go to this film expecting a traditional, three-act narrative structure, with likeable characters and/or characters who will eventually be redeemed, then you have come to the wrong movie. This is not a Hollywood, feel-good movie about the triumph of the human spirit. Instead, The Master is a groundbreaking film that you have to watch with an open mind. Ultimately, The Master is an incisive exploration of the eternal struggle between the spirit and the flesh. As the cult leader, Phillip Seymour Hoffman represents the realm of logic and the mind, of science and rationality. He approaches life analytically and always needs to be in control of his surroundings, and the people in his life. Jouquin Phoenix, on the other hand, represents the unchecked flow of primal, animal nature. This the the central conflict in The Master...between someone who constantly needs to be in control of his life, and someone else who resists all methods of control and repression. The reason why this film alienates so many people is because of its disquieting portrayal of human nature--in the world presented in The Master, no matter where we run to, we're always presented with the startling realization that in this life, there is no escape or redemption, there is only the constant struggle for power and domination. The only thing that separates us from the animals, Paul Thomas Anderson seems to be saying, is an ultimately futile desire to find a higher force to comfort us, but what if that higher force is using us for its own purposes? I believe this question is what The Master is ultimately exploring.
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Format: Blu-ray
This is a film about people searching desperately for a key to unlock the secrets of existence. And it focuses on two characters: one who can find no such key and one who convinces himself and others that he has found such a key. The former is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who we first meet on an unnamed beach in the South Pacific during the last days of WW11 and who we follow for some time as he unsuccessfully struggles to quell internal turmoil and establish some semblance of normalcy in post-War America; and the latter is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is also battling unnamed dragons but who seems to have found some form of inner peace as the leader of an order/cult that promises members that human perfection is achievable in this lifetime if members allow themselves to be unlocked by Lancaster Dodd's magic key (which he calls processing). When Quell stows away on Dodd's yacht the two seem to recognize some common quality in each other. Dodd takes an interest in Quell's curious life, and as Quell learns more about Dodd's methods so do we. Processing is essentially psychoanalytic questioning that seeks to help members identify and neutralize past traumas so that they can eliminate negativity from their present lives and achieve that hoped for perfection. Its psychoanalysis but its psychoanalysis with a difference, the difference being that members are encouraged not only to recall past experiences but also to recall past lives. A lot has been made of the fact that this philosophy is loosely based on L. Ron Hubbards Scientology, but the film is less interested in the specifics of the actual philosophy than in the need of its followers to believe in something.Read more ›
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