Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Though everything we’ve heard about Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming project, The Master, paints it as being a Philip Seymour Hoffman-starring story about the head of a new religion, its new teaser trailer doesn’t give us any indication that this is the case. There’s no mention of religion, no scenes of cult-like indoctrination, and not even a glimpse of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What it does give us is a conversation between military personnel and Joaquin Phoenix, who’s playing a 50s-era serviceman who seems to be having some mental problems. Phoenix has a glint in his eye, a glow to his smile, and a hole in his memory – and it all adds up to a scene that manages to build a ton of tension and mounds of menace without ever actually showing us anything dangerous or getting spooky with the music. It’s a good example of how thoroughly a great filmmaker and a talented actor can manipulate your emotions, even while being completely subtle.

But what’s most important is that this new trailer for The Master is showing us the first new footage from a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie that we’ve seen in five years. Here is a filmmaker who seems to peak with every project that he puts out, but then manages to just keep getting better and better. Whenever we get the go-ahead to start anticipating one of his new films, it should be viewed as a movie buff holiday. That I can now take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who makes sand boobs when I go to the beach is just the icing on the cake. And that we now all have the the knowledge that…wait a second, did Joaquin Phoenix just drink rocket fuel?

The Master opens on October 12th.

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