Along with Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson is probably among the top director’s working in film today. Both directors have a unique and staggering talent for storytelling, character development and visual flair. With his other four films, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood, Anderson solidified himself as one of the premiere writer/directors in the world.
A Naval veteran named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself lost after World War II as he drifts around dealing with his personal demons. He accidently stumbles upon the world of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams). Dodd is a writer and philosopher who has a large congregation of followers and many unique theories on man and his origins. Dodd seems intrigued by Quell and Quell feels oddly at home and sometimes even at peace. As their relationship grows closer, Dodd and Quell seem to need each other for their own reasons, but Quell’s issues may end up being more problematic than even Dodd could anticipate.
With past films, I have always admired Anderson’s visual style. He is one of those directors that you can almost tell a movie is his just by watching a scene, his style is that discernable. What really stood out with The Master though is that his style seems to have taken a huge leap forward. I don’t know if it is the digital medium or if it is his style evolution, but The Master is jaw droppingly superb looking. From the first frames you know you are in store for something different, every frame’s composition is like a beautiful painting. But the real treat here is on top of one of the best looking films of the past five years, the performances here are staggering. Joaquin Phoenix, whom I have always liked and was saddened when he cut down on the acting roles, is a revelation here. There is no acting evident on screen as he rips open his heart and puts it on display to play the role of Freddie Quell. Quell is one of the most fascinating, unpredictable and saddest characters I have ever seen on film. His performance is one that has to be seen to be believed. In full compliment to Phoenix’s Quell is Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd. Dodd is likable, charismatic, buoyant, and seemingly wise, but he is also as unpredictable and in many ways, sad, as Quell. They are two characters that were destined to have each other in their lives. The Master is another masterwork by one of the most outstanding directors alive.
The Blu-ray from eOne is absolutely breathtaking. From the first frame this film just blows you away. Clarity, color, detail and sound are all rendered in perfection. You just can’t do better and The Master is destined to become one of the best reference discs of 2013. Very highly recommended.
Available March 5, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.