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February 19, 2013

Movie Review: The Master (2012, Blu-ray/DVD combo)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Coming to you via Anchor Bay February 26th. 

Director P.T. Anderson is one of the best working directors today. He came onto the scene initially in 1998 with his superior modern day film-noir “Hard Eight” which he followed up with Boogie Night. One of the best films to show a glimpse inside the porn industry of the 70's. Next up for him was the incredibly odd (Yet brilliant) Tom Cruise vehicle “Magnolia”. After a three year break he gave us a film that forever changed (for a little while) Adam Sandlers funny image. Having him play a man with Bi-polar. That was film was “Punch Drunk Love”. Which will always have a special place in my heart, being the first P.T. Film I ever saw at theaters.

Then after a very Terrance Mallick like 5 year hiatus, Anderson returned with what I'd call arguably his best film to date “There Will Be Blood”. A film which is rather perfect on all levels, each shot was composed and acted with such perfect that I feared P.T.'s next venture would never be able to shake a stick at this film. “The Master” is his latest piece of “cinema” if you will, did he surpass the brilliance of “There will be blood”? Read on to find out.

The Master is a expertly made character journey, as hypnotic as it is dense. The film takes place in post WWII America and deals with a man who's just gotten out of the navy and is now a drifter who's constantly drunk. This man is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). One day while stowing himself away on a ship he is discovered by Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd is intrigued by Freddie and his occasional outburst of PTS related violence. Turns out Dodd is a cult leader of sorts who's purpose is... well that spoil a few things. But he and his wife Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams) look to see if they can tame the ticking time bomb that is Freddie Quell.

This is a film that no plot synopsis no matter how long can do justice for. It's not your typical film and it doesn't follow the traditions of movie story-telling. This film is a pure character piece, a very subjective one since we see everything through Joaquin's characters perspective. The film acts a very much as a train of thought, a collection of images and memories much like a fever dream connected together like little vignettes. Don't go into this film expecting your typical beginning, middle and end formula. This picture is very content to just focus in on the characters as the story takes a back seat.

It's not even so much that the story takes a back seat. It's the characters that Anderson is interested in and like any good character study, the people come first and the story should just be there and be sturdy enough to support the weight of the characters as we follow them on there chosen paths.

It's a beautiful film, haunting, thought provoking and superbly acted. Joaquin Phoenix commands the screen and gives possibly one of the greatest performances since Daniel Day's work in “There will be blood” back in 2007. Phoenix doesn't just “act” the role of Freddie Quell. He becomes the man, he loses himself in the character just as you will lose yourself in his performance. You truly feel for this man who can't help himself and is by most means a lost cause.

Philip Seymor Hoffman is one of the best living actors plain and simple and his performance is equally impressive. His character of Lancaster Dodd (Loosely based on Scientology founder and Author Ron Hubbard) is calm, cool and collected but not without his own quirks. Every time he speaks you can't help but listen.

This is a film that your either going to love or hate. There is very little middle ground with this one. It's not your for typical movie fan because this is not your typical movie. It can seem rather slow but everything in this film has a purpose or does it? It's a film that is so dense and so rich with content that it requires mutliple viewings.

Anchor Bay brings “The Master” onto a Blu-ray/DVD combo and the video offerings is magnificent. Anderson shot the film on 65MM film. Something that hasn't been done in a long while. This gives the film an extremely heightened clarity and depth. But not even Blu-ray has the capability of showing off the full resolution as originally intended.

Still Anderson and his D.P. Mihai Malaimare Jr. Who's worked on Francis Ford Coppolaon his latest projects achieve something special with this film. The transfer is reference quality to say the least. Prepare to be stunned.

The audio is equally impressive, one thing that truly stands out is Johnny Greenwood's haunting score. Greenwood's name might ring a bell and for good reason. Being the lead guitarist for Radio Head and also has scored Anderson's “There Will Be Blood” and the very controversial “We need to talk about Kevin”. The audio is crystal clear, no background noise and the music never over powers the dialog at hand.

The extras are very interesting and as assembled fit the complex nature of the film. Starting off is “Back Beyond”. Which has taken Deleted scenes and outtakes which have been edited into the format of a short film. Johnny Greenwood's score plays over these. It's an interesting way to view additional scenes and hopefully this way of presenting them becomes a trend.

Unguided Message” is a 8 minute segment of BTS footage, we also get a huge collection of teasers and trailers for the film (About 18 minutes worth).

Last but not least is the great extra of the bunch. Included on this disk is legendary director John Huston's rare 1946 documentary “Let there be light”. A documentary that deals with a shows real life WWII soldiers who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. Something that people were just discovering back then, but something that sadly we all know is well to real now. This is a fascinating watch and it should be noted that Anderson cited this doc as his biggest influence for The Master.

This film and disk comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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