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The Power of the Dog

Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons) Burbank own and manage a successful cattle ranching business in Montana in the early 20th century. Phil is rugged, doesn’t say much and, when he does, it is usually nasty and degrading to someone. George never says much and seems to be much more sensitive and aware of what is happening around him. George marries Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow who owns a bar and restaurant in a nearby town and has a son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The marriage will have consequences for all of them. Phil, George, and Peter each represent different expressions of masculinity; the film is about toxic masculinity and its effect on others. Phil seems to control the shots in the lives of these 4 characters, yet as the story unfolds, something starts to happen to that control. Jane Campion is an expert storyteller here; she allows their stories to unfold slowly, and you don’t even realize what is happening until the gasp of realization happens. The cinematography, of course, is stunning, and the score is beautifully done. The acting by everyone is superior; I expect that all four will potentially be nominated for their work. Cumberbatch has never been better. My favorite here is McPhee; what he does is simply amazing. At the movie’s end, I watched him onscreen and suddenly see a different person. The ending is fantastic, and I was replaying the events leading to the ending for a couple of days after watching it. This has advanced to my favorite film of the year. (2021; 5 Stars).

About Gary Burkholder

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