Paul Thomas Anderson movies, ranked

SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Director Paul Thomas Anderson speaks onstage at the Outstanding Directors Award Sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter during The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 6, 2018 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Director Paul Thomas Anderson speaks onstage at the Outstanding Directors Award Sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter during The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 6, 2018 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF) /
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The Master

The Master is PTA’s first collaboration with Joaquin Phoenix and his last with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a disturbed navy veteran having trouble returning to civilian life, while a man named Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) comes into Freddie’s life to lead him on the ‘right path.’

As a thinly veiled allusion to Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, The Master explores how to attract individuals to a certain belief system. Lancaster Dodd notices Freddie is searching for some sort of meaning in his life and welcomes him into, ‘The Cause,’ the philosophical movement headed by Dodd. ‘The Cause’ comes into question when a patron attending one of the group’s dinner parties questions the legitimacy of the movement and even goes so far as to call the movement a “cult.”

The Master does a terrific job at exploring the dangers associated with engaging in cult-like behavior and how it easy it is for intelligent people to become brainwashed. The film also deals with PTSD post World War II, something not often discussed in media and films from that era. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance here is off the charts, especially evident in the interview scene with Phoenix (where Phoenix is also superb). Some would argue this is PTA’s second or third best film, but I think I’ll need more viewings before putting The Master in that class.

The Master is available to stream on Netflix and Hulu.

My score: 8.3/10