The Power of the Dog

One of the debuting films this week on Netflix is a potential Academy Award nominee featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch is a busy man, with several films on the docket this year and his role as Dr. Strange taking up time in the MCU.

This film is a Western called The Power of the Dog, and it is based on a novel of the same name by Thomas Savage and it is directed by Jane Campion.

The story centers around two brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons), cowboys and ranchers. When George brings home a new wife Rose (Kristen Dunst) and her son Peter (Kodi Smith-McPhee), conflict started to appear. Phil resented Rose and targeted Peter for torment.

Rose herself had begun to drink heavily and felt like an outsider. She did not seem to be very happy with the life that she had married into and was on edge around Phil at all times.

Phil, however, appeared to take Peter under his wing and started to teach him some of the skills that was taught to him by Phil’s late mentor, Bronco Henry.

The ending was unexpected and required some thought. I liked how subtle the ending of the film was as I had to stop and wonder if what I thought just happened, actually did.

There are some great performances in the film. Benedict Cumberbatch played the role of Phil perfectly. He was raw and rough and hard to like. Cumberbatch allowed each jagged edge to see the light of day without worrying about how the character might be perceived. Kirsten Dunst was very strong too, but I could have used more with her and more reason for her to have turned to the bottle as quickly as she did.

Kodi Smith-McPhee stands out of the cast as well, creating a mysterious young man who you are never quite sure what he was thinking. He was in the film heavily at the first and then he disappeared for a good chunk. I may have missed them explaining where he had gone (apparently returning from school), but once he came back, things picked up again.

There were some slow moments in the film. It is definitely a slow burn and I would think that some of the middle section could have been trimmed for time.

This is an atypical Western and is much more of a psychological piece than a Western. The performances were all really good and the film looked great. You need to pay attention because a lot of the plot goes by without you knowing it and the conclusion will sneak up on you. Still, The Power of the Dog is a decent watch and a good time on Netflix.

3.2 stars

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