Berkreviews The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog (2021) is the first Jane Campion film I have seen, but I plan on watching her filmography along with the Blank Check Podcast this year. I’d heard mixed things about this movie prior to watching it, but I went in with little information on what the film was. To me, I found the film to be very compelling – with an incredible performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as the rest of the cast.

Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch) is a rancher who has a very charismatic personality, yet is often unbelievably cruel and demeaning to those around him, often choosing to rule by fear. His brother, George (Jesse Plemmons) – who Phil calls “Fatso” – meets and marries Rose (Kirsten Dunst), who Phil believes is only after George for their money. Her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), is around at times, and the three become the targets of Phil’s ire.

While this review will refrain from spoilers, it is the end of the film that really landed for me. The story is a bit of a slow burn and allows the characters to really develop over the course of the runtime. This becomes all the more clear as the conclusion unfolds. I didn’t fully understand all of the meaning of the end at first – but and after doing some reading, the power of the final moments really stuck out. I have been thinking about this film on and off for days, and I am very impressed with it as a whole. 

I’ve seen several films with Cumberbatch at this point, but none asked him to be so cruel. He really clicks in this position, and Campion’s film used him perfectly. Smit-McPhee hasn’t always clicked for me, but I think he is cast perfectly here. He is able to truly inhabit the odd discomfort the role asks of him. Dunst and Plemmons were solid in their roles, but I would have welcomed a little more from Plemmons, as he is often such a presence in the films he is in. 

I don’t think everyone will love this movie, but if you don’t mind a slow burn with a western aesthetic shown through stunning cinematography, then you should give The Power of the Dog (2021) a watch. It is currently available on Netflix. This isn’t a happy kind of movie, so if that’s not your style you may not enjoy it. The Power of the Dog (2021) has earned the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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