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Deservedly collecting the top prizes at the 2012 Venice Festival, THE MASTER is Anderson’s latest essay on complex, troubled individuals and their insidious power. But unlike THERE WILL BE BLOOD and MAGNOLIA, here we have not one but two such protagonists: war-damaged sailor Freddie Quell (Phoenix) and charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Seymour Hoffman), under whose influence Freddie falls.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is the thinly disguised model for Dodd, whose The Cause employs brainwashing methods masquerading as soul-cleansing. Here the interplay between the hair-triggered Quell and his oily guru develops into an intense mutual dependency.
Phoenix and Seymour Hoffman have never been better, and nor has Amy Adams as the latest Mrs Dodds who senses the threat Quell poses to The Cause. Their performances are intensified by rich, 70mm cinematography and stunning art direction.