The Power of the Dog: a slow-burning Western and character study. Writer-director Jane Campion's (Sweetie, The Piano, and Bright Star) direction is breathtaking, always in control of her craft. While Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee deliver superb performances. A striking drama about toxic masculinity. Emotional and bruising: that ending hits you.
The Power of the Dog is a bruising Western that will strike an emotional chord inside you. It's one of the best films to come out this year. Filmmaker Jane Campion continues to showcase to the world why she is one of our greatest directors of the times. Dog marks the first film for Campion in twelve years, 2009's Bright Star. Yet, Campion has not lost any of her muster. Her craft has never been better, while actors Cumberbatch, Dunst, and Smit-McPhee fill in the cracks with grandeur. The Power of the Dog is a movie that has long been on my mind ever since I finished watching it. A slow-burning Western that will get under your skin, aching at your bones, oh and that ending! Cumberbatch plays a handsome but brutal cowboy named Phil Burbank. Phil, along with his brother George (a wonderful Jesse Plemons), are wealthy ranchers in the hills of Montana.
The year is 1925, and Phil is a powerful man who's tormented with past rage, romance, and fragility. Phil unleashes this anger on everyone and everything around him. Whether it's castrating a bull calf with his knife or verbally mocking a young man named Peter (a strong Smit-McPhee), Phil's rage has no mercy as he plows his land and everything around it. Cumberbatch has never been better, giving us his best performance to date. Cumberbatch deserves all of the awards this season. Through blood, sweat, and tears: Cumberbatch is at the top of his game in The Power of the Dog. Likewise, Dunst gives us another rousing performance as Rose, a widow who runs her own inn and cafe with her son Peter (Smit-McPhee). George falls for Rose and asks her to marry him. Rose says yes. By doing so, Rose and Peter come to live with the Burbank brothers at their wealthy ranch house.
Phil is furious and unleashes his cunning rage verbally at both Rose and Peter. This type of torment leads Rose to begin drinking again; as she spirals down a dark rabbit hole of alcoholism. While Phil is not executing his toxicity towards the world, he's out taking long swims naked in the river and smearing his body with mud. This is where Campion explores sexuality as an underlining but important storyline to this picture. Phil ropes his lasso with toxic masculinity and repressed sexuality until they begin to spill out, hurting others in the process. Campion is a master of her craft. Her old-fashioned smoothly-paced Western is a towering menace of cinematic brilliance and heartbreak. I have not even gotten to talk about the gorgeous cinematography by Ari Wegner (2016's Lady Macbeth and 2021's Zola) or the haunting score by Jonny Greenwood (who also did this year's Spencer). I have not even mentioned the ghostly spirit of Bronco Henry that runs through this film's veins.
A mysterious being of Phil's past; that he constantly brings up and is fixated on. The Power of the Dog is one of the front runners this awards season, and for a good reason. Could this finally be Netflix's first movie that wins Best Picture? We'll have to wait and see. For now, The Power of the Dog has already won 77 awards, including 137 nominations. These nominations include seven from the 79th Golden Globe Awards, as well as, ten from the 27th Critics' Choice Awards. Campion's picture is a powerhouse from the directing to the acting, from the cinematography to the score. Campion's cunning Western will stir inside you until you cannot get it out of your head. As Phil begins to take Peter under his wing, an uneasy feeling will travel to the pit of your stomach. What is Phil's endgame here? Will it leave him more exposed or more furious? I won't say. The Power of the Dog is a fascinating character study, leather saddles, gloves, and all.
The Power of the Dog is rated R (Restricted) Full Nudity | Brief Sexual Content.
Now Streaming on Netflix
Directed by Jane Campion
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Thomasin McKenzie.
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