The Power of the Dog (2021) – Review

Charismatic but troubled rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) inspires fear and awe in those that are around him. When he finds out that his brother George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) has fallen in love and married a woman with an older son, Phil torments the pair mercilessly, but exposes his own frailties in the process. A decent drama that has been receiving a large amount of praise. The Power of the Dog is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Director: Jane Campion
Writers: Jane Campion, Thomas Savage
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee

Adapted from the book of the same name, released in 1967 and written by Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog received a short cinematic release in November, while being distributed more widely a couple of months later to audiences on Netflix. Since then, the film has garnered twelve Oscar nominations.

If you’re heading into The Power of the Dog expecting a typical modern-day western, you’re more than likely going to be left disappointed. This extremely slow-burn character study manages to scope in on a multitude of themes – anger, intimidation, jealousy, love and revenge being just some, with the filmmaker never really spelling much out to the viewer along the way. There did, however, seem to be some minor issues with the pacing, especially towards the end of the movie where the direction and tone seemed to change rather dramatically without much justification.

One aspect of the film that can’t be knocked, however, was the cinematography and set design used by the filmmakers. At times you’d be forgiven for believing the characters and vast gothic house on display, were the only things around, for thousands of miles. Rather interestingly, the entire flick was shot and filmed in New Zealand, not the United States or Europe, where the majority of picturesque westerns typically are. This beautiful scenery was also helped largely by the effective soundtrack and eerie overall atmosphere thrust upon the picture.

In terms of the cast, Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Phil Burbank, the character at the center of many of the scenes, while Jesse Plemons appeared as his brother, George Burbank, in a largely supporting role. Elsewhere, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee were also prominent, adopting the roles of Rose Gordon and Peter Gordon respectively, with both having considerable screentime to establish their characters throughout the one-hundred and twenty-six minute runtime.

This subtle film was visually stunning, but probably wasn’t for everybody as it certainly has its issues, mainly the pacing and forcefulness of certain aspects that the filmmakers brought to the table. I’d not shy away from giving The Power of the Dog a shot, but there are better releases out there. As previously touched upon, The Power of the Dog is now streaming on Netflix.

Where is the boy?

Phil Burbank – The Power of the Dog

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