Matthew Brady's Movie Review of The Power of the Dog

Rating of

The Power of the Dog

*whistles menacingly*
Matthew Brady - wrote on 09/15/21

“I want to say how nice it is not to be alone.”

‘The Power of the Dog’ is a triumph return for director Jane Campion after a 12-year absence from cinema. The movies pace is steady and patient, so some people will take issue with that and find the movie too slow and uneventful, but for me, I was never bored by it. Instead, I was captivated by its eeriness and complexity. It’s a movie that never explains itself and nothing is articulated, but you can pinpoint the long-troubled history just from reading the characters faces and actions.

This is one of Benedict Cumberbatch’s best performance of his career and it’s my favourite role from him. He plays Phil Burbank, a repulsive and cruel human being, who deep down has this boiling rage inside of him that he unleashes by abusing animals such as horses. However, I also found the character fascinating, because you never really know why he does the things he does. The expression throughout the movie was irritation, as if the western wind said something that got under his skin. His got the personality of a misbehaved child, sometimes mimicking and mocking those around him. Sulky and strange, with a thousand-yard stare.

But man, Jesse ‘mother fucking’ Plemons, who plays George Burbank, the brother of Phil Burbank. I mean, holy shit what a natural and gifted performer. His relationship with his brother is complicated to say the least, and George is powerless to Phil’s constant insults towards his weight, appearance, and his new love for a female hotel keeper. Even then, the two brothers would still share a bed together. As I said before, it's complicated.

Kirsten Dunst plays Rose, a local hotel keeper who romantically falls for Jesse Plemons and gets thrown into the ranch life, something she and her son are not suited for, which sets the story into motion. Her son is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, an awkward kid who stands out for the wrong reasons. Dunst and McPhee, both child stars who grew up into maturity on film and both deliver effective performances. Just from the facial expressions alone they manage to convey some much hurt and curiosity that the characters experience when in the presence of Phil Burbank. It’s one of the finest roles.

The use of music here isn’t something you will remember after the movie ends, but I feel that when re-watching it, the score, along with the scenes playing out, makes the experience more hypnotizing and oddly mystical.

The movie was filmed in New Zealand, and it never looked more beautiful until Jane Campion is behind the camera. Even with the muted colours and harsh quality to it, it still felt dreamy.

Although, if you’re a massive lover of animals, then beware because there’s a couple of scenes in this movie of animal abuse that may upset you. It’s not on screen for long, like a few seconds, but man those few seconds are rough. Or just cover your eyes.

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