The new Netflix movie, “The Power of the Dog” is a lot of things all at once; powerful, disquieting, slow-paced and beautiful.
It’s also one of the year’s best films.
Directed by Jane Campion in her epic return to the big screen after nearly 12 years away, from a script by Campion (which was based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage), “The Power of the Dog” is a sprawling yet intimate western which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as stern and hardened rancher Phil Burbank in 1920 Montana, who terrorizes the new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and step-son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) of his brother George (Jesse Plemons).
Campion, who won the 1994 Best Screenplay Oscar for “The Piano” – and was nominated for Best Director for the same film, last directed a feature film with 2009’s “Bright Star.” Since, she’s been in the world of television, having created and directed “Top of the Lake,” which has also gone on to earn Campion top praise.
It seems Campion has taken all of her tricks over the years (deep character studies) and refined them further. Hence, “Dog” is one of the most truthful films of 2021, if not the last five years.
The premise (as stated before) is simple, very simple in fact; an older brother terrorizes his younger brother’s new family after an impromptu marriage. But it’s the stuff that’s left unsaid – all of the subtext (and there’s a lot of it) – that delivers the spark of this slow-burning piece.
The movie never truly states any of the character’s motivations, which allows the audience to dig in deeper, to listen more closely, and to pay more attention to all of the little things in between all of the big things.
The relationship that develops between Cumberbatch’s rancher and the “Nancy-boy” son of his brother’s new wife is all-together gentle and disquieting.
Speaking of Cumberbatch, he effortlessly delivers one of the best performances of the year, while easily giving us one of the best performances of his career. He easily allows us to hate and love Phil all at the same time.
Plemons’ performance as George Burbank is also one to behold. While his isn’t as flashy as Cumberbatch, his role is just as important to the overall arch of the story, and is played pitch-perfectly by “Little Matt Damon,”
Dunst, who just so happens to also be Plemons real-life wife, gives one of her best performances since the early 2000’s.
The Hollywood Foreign Press announced the nominees for the 2022 Golden Globe Awards. Rightfully so, “Dog” earned seven nominations, including Best Actor in a Drama for Cumberbatch, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Smith-McPhee, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Dunst and Best Screenplay and Director noms for Campion.
While there’s still a while before this year’s Academy Award nominations are announced, it is very like this film will be up for many of the top prizes.
“The Power of the Dog” is now streaming on Netflix.