Over the last few months, one of the films that has gathered an excessive amount of hype from its film festival run is Jane Campion’s return to filmmaking, The Power of the Dog. After directing Bright Star in 2009, the acclaimed director decided to take a break from making movies and twelve years later, she is back. But, is this movie worth watching? Yes and no.
Based on the popular book by Thomas Savage, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is a Netflix Original and tells the story of a charismatic rancher, Phil Burbank (played by Benedict Cumberbatch – Avengers: Infinity War, Sherlock), who inspires fear and awe in those around him. However, when his brother (played by Jesse Plemons – Breaking Bad) brings home a new wife (played by Kirsten Dunst – Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy) and her son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee – X-Men: Apocalypse), Phil torments them until he finds himself at the possibility of love.
Prior to seeing The Power of the Dog, I had never seen a film by Campion but all the hype certainly had me eager to check out this movie and see what everybody had been talking about. And while, Campion’s latest movie tries to tell this beautiful story about love, it ultimately left me feeling cold.
Here’s the thing; The Power of the Dog is filled with fantastic performances from top to bottom. Benedict Cumberbatch gives possibly his best performance to date as Phil. He is a rough, mean-spirited man who tries his best to stay clear of his brother’s wife and teenage son and that distance really shows in his character. It seems like he has done that with lots of people because as the film goes on, you feel that loneliness in his character. Kirsten Dunst is also fantastic in the film. All the emotion in this film comes from her character and her troubles with the people surrounding her. She definitely is the beating heart of the film and every scene she is in, she commands the screen with her subtle performance.
However, when the credits begin to roll, I never felt like I connected with the characters as much as the movie wanted me to. Sure, Kirsten Dunst’s performance is filled with emotion but I always felt like I was at arms-length from the movie, making it hard for me to be locked in for this slow-burning drama. The film also takes way too long to get going and to start telling its story. For the first forty-five minutes, everything felt so scattered and aimless, and it served no purpose at all to the overall plot of the movie.
However, this film is absolutely jaw-dropping to look at. Cinematographer Ari Wegner shoot every single frame in such a delicate way that makes every shot look beautiful and filled with colour. This is easily one of the most stunning movies to have been released all year and many awards surely should be coming its way.
The Power of the Dog unfortunately left me cold. While Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all superb, it felt unnecessarily long and the pacing is all over the place. However, Ari Wegner’s cinematography is stunning and Greenwood’s score is beautiful. Sadly, it is one of those films that didn’t live up to the hype.