The Master (2012)
Joaquin Phoenix isn’t a one-trick pony – not only can he act his way to an Oscar for playing a deeply disturbed (and deeply unfunny) comedian in 2019’s Joker, but he can also play a deeply disturbed army veteran in 2012’s The Master.
Returning from military service in the Pacific, traumatised Freddie Quell (Phoenix) struggles to adapt to civilian life and so when he stumbles onto the yacht of a charismatic cult leader, he appears to have found the answers to his and humanity’s most urgent questions. Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is the enigmatic but affable cultist who takes Quell under his seemingly kind wing, but the cult known as The Cause is not without its enemies and critics. Amy Adams, Laura Dern and Mr Robot’s Rami Malek co-star.
Comparisons to Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard were inevitable when the movie was released but the producers denied that the controversial Church had inspired the plot. However, the director later admitted that Hubbard was an inspiration, yet he didn’t intend the film to be a biography.
Regardless of the inspiration, the characters and plot of The Master stand on their own thanks to the world-class performances and irresistibly immersive direction. Total Film effused: “The Master is a breathtaking, singular, technically audacious film, white-hot with emotion, and boasting a few scenes so individually powerful that they’ll stay with you like a physical presence for days.”