Movie Review – The Power of the Dog – Powerful Cinematic Experience
My Rating – 4 out of 5
Plot Summary (Storyline) – The Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this Western – set in Montana, US in the year 1925. And what a powerful performance he has put in! One that is sure to get him noticed by the Academy judges. Trust director Jane Campion to bring to the screen this taut drama – this strong-willed Alpha Male Phil Burbank, who dominates every space he’s in with his sharp tongue and melting iron fiery gaze. Phil and his brother George (Jesse Plemons) are wealthy ranchers in Montana, with Phil doing the rough work while George takes care of the business end of things. Phil, ever the bully, refers to George as ‘Fatso’ and the gentle George just looks away.
But the brothers are close otherwise, and Phil displays an almost parental possessiveness over George. One evening, Phil and George take their ranchhands for dinner at the local restaurant run by the widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil turns his derisive eyes on Pete, who is not the typical macho cowboy symbolic of the times. Pete runs out of the restaurant, not being able to take Phil’s taunts and teasings, and Rose is also terribly upset. A contrite George notices the entire chain of events and returns to apologize to Rose for Phil’s behavior, and before long ends up marrying Rose.
This chain of events upsets Phil no end, and he calls Rose a gold-digger who’s after George’s money and spares no effort to make Rose’s life at the ranch, a living hell. A desperate and upset Rose takes to the bottle as she watches Phil bully Pete rather endlessly. But Pete is no longer a doormat under Phil’s withering gaze, returning them with one of his own – full of a steely determination and even a hint of amusement. Eventually, something cracks in Phil and he starts taking a liking to Pete in his own gruff manner. But now, Rose is even more upset that her son is coming under the evil influence of Phil, and is changing.
George remains a mute spectator at most times, only occasionally standing up to Phil or reminding Rose that Phil is only teaching Pete how to ride. Phil is reminded of the old gent ‘Bronco Henry’, who many years ago taught him, not only how to ride but also everything that he knows as a rancher. That is the knowledge he slowly passes on to Pete, from castrating a bull to how to make a rope out of cowhide. There is an immense romantic feel about this quirky relationship between this gruff alpha male Phil Burbank and the soft-natured, gentle young man Pete.
Phil Burbank: Bronco Henry told me that a man was made by patience in the odds against him.Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog
‘Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog’Peter Gordon: reading a passage from The Order for The Burial of the Dead
Conclusion – Movie Review of The Power of the Dog
Shot in the haunting beauty of New Zealand, this is a moving spectacle, one filled with alluring landscapes whose mysteries are yet to be unraveled, where wisps of lilting string music tug at your heartstrings. Benedict Cumberbatch consumes all your attention and available screen space and despite all his angry, snarky shenanigans, you cannot help but feel for him. He’s ably supported by Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, though Kirsten Dunst is surprisingly rather flat. Overall, this is a feast to close off the year, in poignant thoughts.
A must-watch that came just in time before the holiday season kicks in, in right earnest. A black statuette will be just desserts for both Jane Campion and Benedict Cumberbatch.
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