Film Review: The Master

Set long before post traumatic stress disorder and when drinking and smoking we’re still allowed everywhere and all the time, 2012’s The Master picks up as World War II is coming to an end. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is an alcoholic weirdo that has trouble adapting to society once he returns from the war. Although he didn’t really seem to fit in previously either. His luck changes when he stumbles onto a boat as a stow away. The passengers are followers of The Cause.

The organization’s founder, Master Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes a liking to Quell and brings him into the fold. The group prey on Freddie’s emotions using information he voluntarily provides but he seems to long for so.e kind of enlightenment. At first, Freddie acts as a strong man for Dodd, doing the dirty work that he doesn’t even have to be asked to do. But eventually Freddie grows suspicious of Master.

The Master says more than it shows. The viewer is left having to make significant assumptions about both the characters and the story line. For example, Dodd’s wife tells him he can cheat on her as long as she doesn’t hear about it. And although the viewers never see Dodd being unfaithful, it seems almost guaranteed based on his character that he was already cheating on his wife when she gave him the free pass.

Visually The Master is fantastic albeit shot rather darkly and always cast in shadows. The film’s cast are likewise stellar and offer fantastic performances. But it’s the gaps in the story that will likely leave you scratching your head.


In a previous life, Corinne ran a music website. After going strong for a decade, the site went on a hiatus. Consider her the antiTastemaker.