Rafael Jovine’s review published on Letterboxd:
After a filmmaker peaks as an artist, the bar is raised so high that some find it difficult to go back to that moment of glory. And in many ways, there’s an argument to be made Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow up movies to There Will Be Blood feels like the work of a director who has reached satisfaction and is now just having fun, experimenting and challenging himself.
In that regard, The Master sees the director changing the often “quick” and “entertaining” pacing for something much methodical, which to me fits perfectly with the themes and core elements that makes The Cause what they are. Personally, I would call it hypnotic rather than slow, like for the next 140 minutes we ourselves as audience are been tested as part of the method. Its repetitive, like a vicious circle, but as it happens with Phoenix’s Freddie Quell, every repetition gets a different reaction from us.
The cinematography its just brilliant. The game of shows, the way it plays with the contrast and the blacks, it makes most scenes look like a modern painting, and at the same time palpable dream. The camera work by PTA is also for the most part, very incredible. Anderson knows how to make a proper use of the language, for instance, he does a lot of sweeping and movement in scenes like the “naked dream” sequence, that makes that moment more dynamic. But then there’s the first session scene when he keeps the camera still, which helps building much tension as you want to move away but its like you restrained to suffer like Quell. As a character study, Anderson allows for the energy and the action be delivered by the performances through the use of their work and blocking.
Phoenix has proven to be a bundle of nerves on real life (for clinical reason, granted) and because of it I think it comes easy for him to portray this very disturbed and social alienated individuals to near perfection. A great example comes in the form of Fred, doing a fantastic job making you care for him, feeling some form of pity, while also feeling uncomfortable in his presence. On the other hand, Hoffman does a great job playing this charming and very manipulative man, pushing you in many ways to actually jump in and become part of his religion. As always, he also shines delivering these passive aggressive moments.
Last but not least, Greenwood score is awesome, limiting himself to using the right amount and types of instruments in a very minimalistic way that enhances every moment, especially the psychological aspects of the film.
All in all, while it has plenty of greatness and is a great follow up, once again the movie lose some steam towards the last act and it felt like it ran for a bit too long. Still recommend.