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Review: The Power Of The Dog

Written and directed by Jane Campion

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee

‘The Power of the Dog’ is Jane Campions newest project, her first feature film since ‘Bright Star’ in 2009, and she sits firmly in the driver’s seat as writer and director. Based on a novel written by Thomas Savage in 1967, the Western tells the story of the Burbank brothers as they run their cattle ranch in the harsh terrain of 1925 Montana, USA. Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rugged, abrupt bully while George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) is the gentle businessman. When George returns one day with a new wife and her son, Phil despises the new additions to the family, spending his days berating them into alcoholism and misery. As we follow the journey of Phil and his resentment towards Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), we begin to learn some of the reasons for his rage and see his potential openness to love and connection.

Campion brings her famous subtly to the film, an attribute she has mastered. She’s so gifted at making everything so realistic, it’s as if she just walked into a cattle ranch, transformed herself into a fly on the wall and it just so happened that a camera was rolling at the same time. Campion is also that good at bringing out actors’ performances that are so incredibly organic and believable, it makes for a voyeuristic experience. The cinematography in this film is also spectacular, which Is inevitable with the backdrop of New Zealand, disguised as Montana. You would never know, and every establishing shot made me want to visit both instantly.

The acting is of course impeccable. Kodi Pinkett Smith, surrounded by more experienced talent, really holds his own bringing a purity and eventual strength to the role. Kristen Dunst and Jesse Plemons, real life husband and wife, portray a subtle sweetness you easily believe. It is however Benedict that shines through the most. The role of Phil Burbank instantly goes down as one of his best, and I guarantee he knows it. You can see the inner turmoil he is going through every time he ruins a conversation with some of the worst comments you can think of.

‘The Power of the Dog’ is up there as one of the best films of the year. If it isn’t Cumberbatch’s villain or the mental decline of Dunst’s sad mother that grips you, it must be the phenomenal landscapes of Montana (played by the South Island of New Zealand). Regardless, this film will be sure to secure Academy Award nominations for best film, directing and acting nominations for Cumberbatch and Dunst, at least. An absolute must watch!

Available to stream worldwide December 1st on Netflix.

What do you think?

Written by Emma Thay

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