Run time: 144 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st September 2012
Box Office USA: $16.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $28.3M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Annapurna Pictures, The Weinstein Company, Ghoulardi Film Company
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 191 Rotten: 33
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, Amy Adams as Mary Sue Dodd, Laura Dern as Helen, Jesse Plemons as Val Dodd, Ambyr Childers as Elizabeth Dodd, Rami Malek as Clark, Madisen Beaty as Doris Solstad, Kevin J. O'Connor as Bill White, Patty McCormack as Mildred Drummond, Lena Endre as Mrs. Solstad, Barbara Brownell as Margaret O'Brien, Amy Ferguson as Martha the Salesgirl, Jennifer Neala Page as Winn Manchester, Christopher Evan Welch as John More, Mike Howard as Rorschach Doctor, Bruce Goodchild as V.A. Doctor / Interview, Frank Bettag as Frank, Mimi Cozzens as Chi Chi Crawford
This jagged, meandering exploration of a Scientology-style movement is hauntingly mesmerising and packed with meaty performances. As he did in There Will Be Blood, writer-director Anderson is exploring how people control and influence each other, this time focussing on a twisted mentor-protege relationship that's strikingly well-played by Hoffman and Phoenix.
The story takes place just after the war, as seaman Freddie Quells (Phoenix) struggles to overcome his physical and psychological injuries and fit back into society. After drifting across America, he stows away on a boat captained by Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who is known as the Master to followers of the Cause. He takes Freddie under his wing and coaches him to tap into his eternal soul by exploring who he was in past lives. So Freddie becomes part of the family with Dodd's strong-willed wife (Adams), doubtful son (Plemons) and more gung-ho daughter and son-in-law (Childers and Malek). And Freddie's stubbornness both annoys and challenges Dodd.
It's fascinating to watch these two men develop a tight connection while quietly jostling for power. The cycles of interaction make the film lurch in fits and starts as Freddie tries to elevate himself using Dodd's process, but continually finds another way all his own. In other words, both men are using each other to work out their own inner turmoil. While Hoffman gives a layered performance that bristles with quiet shadows and superficial bravado, Phoenix contorts his body and face into a man who has literally been crumpled up by his past. Meanwhile, the darkly intense Adams sneaks up and steals every scene she's in.
This is not a film to sit back and enjoy. It continually pokes us with pointed ideas that force us to think about who we are and how we approach our life. And in the film's central relationship, we ask big questions such as whether it's possible to save someone who doesn't know they need saving. Or if being told what to believe means that you don't actually have any faith. In the end, Anderson is a bit too cerebral to let us into his main point, but the film is such a bold, beautifully crafted work of art that we can't look away.