UK critics pile on plaudits for 'Scientology film' The Master

Nov 2, 2012

Terrific central performances, dreamy visuals and a great score make this 'a landmark movie'

What you need to know
Psychological drama The Master is the latest film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights). It opens in Britain today after receiving rave reviews in the States.

Set it post-Word War II America, it tells the story of a troubled drifter who meets and becomes a follower of the charismatic leader of a philosophical movement known as 'The Cause'. Anderson says the film was partly inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as WWII veteran Freddie Quell, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as self-styled writer, scientist, philosopher and Cause leader, Lancaster Dodd. Amy Adams appears as Dodd's wife. Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead composed the film score.

What the critics like
This is an arresting and utterly absorbing psychological drama, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Anderson conjures a strange and dysfunctional world, of charlatanism and snake-oil truth salesmen. And Joaquin Phoenix's stunning performance, on par with the young Pacino
or De Niro, makes it "simply unmissable".

The Master feels like "a landmark American movie", says Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. With vivid, dreamy visuals and Debussy-like melodies, words like 'bold' and 'extraordinary' seem utterly inadequate to describe it. Philip Seymour Hoffman seeps charisma, and Phoenix and Adams are also "sensational".

Brilliant, says Damon Wise in Empire. It's lyrically shot and seductively scored with terrific central performances and a luminous, unforgettable visual beauty.

What they don't like
There are moments to cherish in The Master, says Ryan Lambie in Den of Geek, yet in spite of all the "committed, outstanding work", it's less satisfying than Paul Thomas Anderson's previous film There Will Be Blood. Like that film, The Master is also about compelling bastards, but "these bastards are less compelling".

Sign up for our daily newsletter