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Times of India
A World War Two veteran returns from the Pacific theatre of war, direction-less and lost. As he tries to regain his bearings, he meets the leader of a cult and both their lives take an unusual turn.
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lancaster Dodd's (Philip Seymour Hoffman) destinies seem intertwined. And yet, you'd never imagine so as both their worlds are really poles apart. Freddie is almost sub-human after his return from the war. Falling apart at the seams, he is charming but tormented, his features twisted. Adding to the fog in his brain is the effect of the moonshine he distils from photography fluid and other vile chemicals. He's a sex addict too.
Dodd is the calm and composed leader of a nascent cult called The Cause, which is somewhat reminiscent of Scientology. The two meet when a drunken Freddie stows away on Dodd's yacht after a night of drinking hooch. They soon become almost inseparable. Though Dodd is sometimes condescending towards Freddie, at other times, he tries to help him get over his past traumas. Freddie is as loyal to Dodd as a dog is toward his master. The both of them, however, are volatile. Lancaster's wife Mary (Amy Adams) does not occupy centrestage here. But when she does, she is subtly manipulative and extremely perceptive.
Set in the 1950s, the biggest theme of
is the disciple-mentor relationship that Quell and Dodd share. That, in effect, is the storyline. The cinematography (Mihai Malaimare, Jr.) is breathtaking and the music (Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood) is at times ominous, yet always augments the mood of a scene. This film is almost like a vehicle for Phoenix and Hoffman's acting skills because both their performances are very engaging.