Jane Campion constructs a patient and contemplative psychological western constructed around its expert craftsmanship.
The 94th Academy Awards might have come and gone already, but in an effort to add more reviews to the site I am deciding to write about as many of these films as I can. Of course, some of these films we have covered on the podcast like Nightmare Alley (2021), Dune (2021), Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and most recently Flee. The Power of the Dog leads this year with a well-deserved 12 nominations like Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and more. Where did this stack up against the rest of the nominees?
The Power of the Dog is written and directed by Jane Campion and is based on the novel by Thomas Savage. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, and Frances Conroy. The film is shot by Ari Wegner who is known for also shooting Zola last year. The film’s musical composition is provided by Jonny Greenwood.
The Power of the Dog is a psychological western where we meet two brothers Phil and George Burbank, and we follow each of their journeys throughout 1920s Montana. Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a cattle driver who has assumed leadership of his group since the death of his mentor Buck Henry. Bill Burbank (Jesse Plemons) is another cattle driver who eventually falls in love with widow Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) who takes care of her brother Peter Gordon (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Life on this Montanna ranch isn’t easy as Phil terrorizes the Gordon siblings while hiding a prominent part of his life from the public light. What we are presented is a mesmerizing and patient film about toxic masculinity, sexuality, and the mystical aura of the American West.
The Power of the Dog took home the Best Director award honoring the brilliant direction by Jane Campion. Ari Wegner’s cinematography is masterful and it really captures the essence of what the film is trying to capture about the American West. Every single performer in this film gives a captivating performance but it is our main performances that truly set the chemistry of the cast. Jonny Greenwood’s score profoundly excels to provide the atmosphere of the film. Its strong themes of sexuality and masculinity allow the film to explore aspects of Western films that are usually not explored. The film’s biggest complaint in the film space is the runtime, but I think for its runtime the film is actually paced well. I definitely felt the first half worked a lot more than the second, but when push came to shove The Power of the Dog still found a way to keep my attention.
This is my first film by director Jane Campion but after watching this I will be checking out more of her work. Watch The Power of the Dog on Netflix.