Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Glass of Wine at the Movies - The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog

Rating:  R

Director: Jane Campion

Language: English

Length: 126 minutes

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons

Viewing Method: TIFF Digital Screening

Release Date: December 1, 2021

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.


There are movies that ask something of its viewer. It demands your full attention and that you spend time digesting and dissecting what you have just seen. The Power of the Dog is one of those movies.

It is a movie that cannot be half watched. It requires your full attention to fully absorb everything. It may, in fact, alienate some viewers because of what it asks of its audience. It, in my opinion, only makes for a richer and more rewarding viewing experience.

The performances are all solid with Benedict Cumberbatch providing one of the best of his career. He is a deeply cruel man whose joy seems to be gained by hurting others. Kodi Smit-McPhee was a stand out to me with him being worthy of inclusion in Best Supporting Actor talks. It's a performance that doesn't snap fully into focus until later in the movie but it was his character I left the movie thinking about. I wish that both Jesse Plemmons and Kirsten Dunst had more to do. They are both solid as usual and do a lot with the material given but they are not given the same opportunity to shine that Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee are given.

The atmosphere that flows through this movie is one of tension. The viewer is on edge dreading impending violence at every moment. Each moment is laced with the potential for it to abrupt and it makes you almost sick with it. It feels like waiting for the other shoe to drop but you cannot pinpoint why you feel this unease. You are reacting to something the actors are giving off and it is one of the most powerful elements of the movie.

Jane Campion is an esteemed director with awards recognition for her previous work. This movie looks beautiful but it is also sharply directed. I think fans of her previous films will find much to love here.

Masculinity and how it can effect someone is a large piece of the story being told. Cumberbatch's character is definitely a commentary on masculinity and the toxic side to it that can harden and darken someone. It is fascinating to see this reflected from a female director's perspective. 

This is the type of movie you are going to watch at least twice. You want to catch every nuance and dig into every layer. It also is a movie that sits with you. It's ending is one you will want to dissect with fellow film lovers and the performance are certainly awards chatter worthy. I cannot wait to dive into the book before I rewatch this one.

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