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The Master (2012)

R  |   |  Drama  |  21 September 2012 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 97,216 users   Metascore: 86/100
Reviews: 396 user | 541 critic | 43 from Metacritic.com

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 75 wins & 172 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
V.A. Doctor
Rorschach Doctor
Sarah Shoshana David ...
V.A. Nurse
V.A. Doctor / Interview
Matt Hering ...
V.A. Patient
Dan Anderson ...
V.A. Patient
V.A. Patient
V.A. Patient
Patrick Wilder ...
V.A. Patient (as Patrick Biggs)
Ryan Curtis ...
V.A. Patient
Jay Laurence ...
V.A. Patient
Abraxas Adams ...
V.A. Patient
Tina Bruna ...
Portrait Customer
Portrait Customer


Returning from Navy service in World War II, Freddie Quell drifts through a series of breakdowns. Finally he stumbles upon a cult which engages in exercises to clear emotions and he becomes deeply involved with them. Written by Alan Young, edit Hal Issen

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »



Release Date:

21 September 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Master  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$736,311 (USA) (14 September 2012)


$16,377,274 (USA) (15 March 2013)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jillian Bell was cast in the film because Paul Thomas Anderson was a fan of her show Workaholics. See more »


When Freddie is first seen visiting Doris' house, aluminum stick-on numbers are visible in the establishing shot, giving a street number. These numbers didn't' come onto the market until the 1960s. See more »


John More: Some of this sounds quite like Hypnosis. Is it not?
Lancaster Dodd: This is a process of dehypnotization, if you will. Man is asleep; this process wakes him from his slumber
John More: I still find it difficult to see the proof with regards to past lives that your movement claims.
Lancaster Dodd: Would you care to submit yourself to processing? You'd look through the telescope, as my friend said.
John More: Perhaps another time. You've also said that these methods, cause methods can cure leukemia. According to your book...
Lancaster Dodd: Some forms of Leukemia. ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

After its title, this film has no further opening credits. See more »


References Raging Bull (1980) See more »


Dahil Sa Iyo
Written by Mike Velarde (as Miguel Velarde Jr.)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Two very different men try to fulfill one another.
11 October 2012 | by See all my reviews

Unquestionably P.T. Anderson's best film so far. I've always liked his work, but early on I had no sense he would achieve heights such as this. Let me say this, Anderson, ALONE, I think amongst relatively big-budget American filmmakers, allows his imagery to play by its own rules. EVERY other studio filmmaker- from Scorsese to Tarantino, to Jarmusch, plays by some kind of pre-established rules-even if they are the pre-established rules of "art cinema" or "second cinema". Anderson, like Weerasthakul or Bela Tarr, speaks his own tongue. I thought There Will Be Blood was pretty great, but this is Truly Great- a singularly challenging work of art. Similarly, I would compare Daniel Day-Lewis's work in Blood with Phoenix's work here. The former was impressive, creative, witty. The latter is brave, adventuresome, and merciless. More than any of the "canonical" "method" performances of cinema, I think Phoenix reaches into places of himself, of all of us, that's very unearthing demands new philosophical questions. Here's my take, for what it's worth, of the "meaning" of the film. It's a comparison of two drastically contradictory and complementary personalities. One wants to live without any Master by becoming a Master himself. The other wants a master to give some kind of shape to his life. L. Ron Hubbard- inspired guru Lancaster Dodd (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a performance that's beautiful but not ground-breaking) is a con-man, but as I read him, he's not exactly a charlatan. He truly wants to believe the (self-serving) things he's saying, and he needs other people to believe them too. He's very successful at (least the latter half of) this. But this does not make him free. Instead, it turns him into a kind of King and, as we know from the example of Louis XVI, any sovereign is ultimately a privileged prisoner of his/her subjects. They are exempt from the laws of the land, of life, exactly in so far as others believe they are. Dodd's "freedom" from mastery is wholly dependent on the worship of the other, an other outstandingly represented by Phoenix's Freddie Quell, a potentially unbreakable "scoundrel" who Dodd both fears and admires as such. Quell is a completely, irredeemably, broken individual, whose only surviving qualities are sheer animal instinct- screw, eat, and drink. He yearns to be put back together, to be mastered by some other, to serve some sovereign and thus be welcomed back into civilization. But he's too far gone, or too savage, for that to work. He can't be mastered, even by any coherent sense of self. Dodd seeks the solitude of the sublime but is ultimately made completely dependent on the Other, while Quell, very unwillingly, achieves the freedom, and loneliness, of God.

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