‘The Power of the Dog’ Review – Visually Stunning and Unexpectedly Diabolical

Synopsis:

CHARISMATIC RANCHER PHIL BURBANK INSPIRES FEAR AND AWE IN THOSE AROUND HIM. WHEN HIS BROTHER BRINGS HOME A NEW WIFE AND HER SON, PHIL TORMENTS THEM UNTIL HE FINDS HIMSELF EXPOSED TO THE POSSIBILITY OF LOVE.

Never underestimate anyone or anything. If you ever played sports, you learn this lesson pretty early on. No matter how big or how small, people are capable of feats and actions that you won’t expect. That’s what makes jumping from the free-throw line so impressive and what makes shootings so saddening. No matter many times it happens, we feel as if humans aren’t capable of such things. If we push ourselves we can do amazing things, if we push someone or something else, it can have a very opposite reaction. It’s an interesting and terrifying thing to think about. However, it’s easy to be a decent person. So, just do that and you will fare a lot better in life.

“A man is made by patience and the odds against him.”

Doctor Strange and Mary Jane have their talents to the year 1925 in this moody western drama. Directed by Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog is methodical, visually stunning, and unexpectedly diabolical. Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, this is a film that shakes your hand, smiles in your face, and at some point covertly stabs you and you never realized it. The story is quiet, detail-oriented, and leaves you questioning and replaying everything that you just saw. I believe that is the film’s best quality. Everything that you think is simply an artistic choice or maybe doesn’t mean much to the story is immensely more important than you initially realize. Now, it is a slow burn and is better suited for the big screen as you may be tempted to reach for your phone while at home, but I assure you, you don’t want to miss a thing.

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Taking place on a ranch in Montana, the setting allows for beautiful idyllic visuals as well as intimate and impactful storytelling. It’s a tale of psychological torment, sexual identity crisis, toxic masculinity, and the protection of one’s family. With subtle subtext coupled with some great cinematography, parts of the film are left open to interpretation making the story that much more intriguing. Made phenomenally by top-tier performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kirsten Dunst, this is one you can expect to hear mentioned come award season. With its philosophical undertones, The Power of the Dog will have you pondering its endgame and motive through most of the film. Once everything begins falling into place, prepare to be flabbergasted. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this film until it was over and I feel like that’s what makes so special. Many of us decide whether or not we like a movie midway through, however, under Campion’s direction, the Cumberbatch-led film doesn’t allow you to make that decision until you’ve witnessed it all. With its wonderful majestically rustic score and a great script, The Power of the Dog is one of the year’s best. Its rewatchability is high.

THE POWER OF THE DOG (L to R): BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK, JESSE PLEMONS as GEORGE BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021
THE POWER OF THE DOG: KODI SMIT-McPHEE as PETER in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

Pacing & Pop

This film is a slow burn in the best way possible. Unlike other slower-paced films, the payoff in this one is very much worth it. What popped for me was the feeling of shock and amazement I had after the film’s conclusion. It definitely warrants a second watch to ascertain whether or not you can see it coming or where the plot began.

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THE POWER OF THE DOG (L to R): JESSE PLEMONS as GEORGE BURBANK, KIRSTEN DUNST as ROSE GORDON in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021
THE POWER OF THE DOG (L to R): KODI SMIT-McPHEE as PETER, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

Characters & Chemistry

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil Burbank), Kirsten Dunst (Rose Gordon), Jesse Plemons (George Burbank), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter Gordon), Thomasin McKenzie (Lola), Genevieve Lemon (Mrs. Lewis), Peter Carroll (The Old Gent), Alison Bruce (The Governor’s Wife), with Keith Carradine (The Governor), and Frances Conroy (The Old Lady)

This is Benedict Cumberbatch like you’ve never seen him before. In one of the best performances of his career, as Phil Burbank, he’s mean, cold, unlikable, and has a secret that could ruin him. Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter is definitely my standout character. I want to compare him to another famous movie character but it would give too much away. What I will say is that he’s smarter than he lets on. Moreover, the enigmatic chemistry between the two makes for an intense cat and mouse-like energy. Some of the most emotional moments come from the great performance of Kirsten Dunst as Rose. Her chemistry with Cumberbatch is very audibly descriptive and physically expressive without much being said. The mere sound of him walking or smoking triggers a reaction and those reactions reverberate throughout the film.

The Power of the Dog will begin streaming on Netflix on December 1, 2021. Stay safe and enjoy.

Director: Jane Campion

Writers: Jane Campion, Thomas Savage (Author)

Producers: Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier

Executive Producers: Simon Gillis, Rose Garnett, John Woodward

Editor: Peter Sciberras

Director of Photography: Ari Wegner

Composer: Jonny Greenwood

Rated: R

Runtime: 2h 7m

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRDPo0CHrko]

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