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Hoffman’s performance is so arresting that he could easily walk away with the movie, but he’s matched by the rest of the cast. Phoenix is a combustible mix of Brando-style mumbling and volcanic violence. He actually feels dangerous. While Amy Adams, as Dodd’s tenacious and manipulative wife, is chillingly perfect. You get the sense that without her ruthless encouragement, Dodd might simply smother himself with his own words.
Quite simply, The Master is the most startlingly evocative movie we’ve seen since Far From Heaven. Romanian cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr, best known for his recent work with Francis Ford Coppola, captures the look and feel of the early 50’s in a way that makes every shot feel freshly washed. And if Jonny Greenwood’s score isn’t quite as creepy as the one he did for There Will Be Blood, his percussion-heavy soundbed for this movie is just as hypnotic.
Like Anderson’s other great works, The Master is a movie that begs for repeat viewings. It’s scheduled to open in Chicago on Sept. 21; we’ll be ready to see it again.