THE POWER OF THE DOG
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: Jane Campion
Film lovers unaware of writer/director Jane Campion should be rocked when they discover her via The Power of the Dog. Although its first half is slow, this methodical treatise on predatory abuse and its generation-permeating infections leaves an appreciable impact on the viewer. Each and every performance is in top form – especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee – but Campion is the real star of the show. Her control is felt over every minute of story, over every shot and line delivery. Even as it ages, this one is going to stick with me for a long, long time.
It seems we’re inundated in Cumber-dramas these days, and The Power of the Dog is one you don’t want to miss. It’s a film that constantly surprises, using the tropes of the western genre to subvert your expectations. Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a truly nuanced character. By turns, I rooted for him, hated him, and felt sorry for him. He’s a man of contradictions: lovable for his devotion to his work, despicable for his treatment of Rose (Kirsten Dunst). This film is a cautionary tale of what happens when we choose to tarnish others’ joy instead of celebrating it.
The Power of the Dog may just be the moodiest, dreariest film of the year. Packed with talent, the film boasts nearly everything that makes for an award winner, except it’s incredibly dull. It’s mostly just a compilation of beautiful nature shots, people solemnly staring at the camera, and some vague connecting threads that create something that resembles a story. Thankfully, despite how bored I was, I can confidently say each actor gave a fantastic performance, but it just wasn’t enough to save this movie for me.
The Power of the Dog is a gripping slow burn worth every single second. Writer/director Jane Campion’s latest is a tense and miraculously crafted western that plays as a very effective examination of toxic masculinity. This is, hands down, one of the year's best ensembles, led by Benedict Cumberbatch at his absolute best…but Kodi Smit-McPhee is the revelation here. Campion’s attention to detail is superb, the story is unbelievably captivating, and I do not see how that ending is gonna leave me any time soon.
First, a random hot take: There Will Be Blood is extremely overrated. I tell you that to give context for the rest of my review. Now… The Power of the Dog is a mix between There Will Be Blood and another (in my opinion) extremely overrated Oscar darling that I can’t name here because it would take us to Spoilertown. Admittedly, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and the performances are good-not-great. However, it’s a slow-moving bore that would rather be about masculinity in the artful abstract than tell a gripping story. It’s for only the most pretentious of film nerds.