The Power of The Dog Review – Riveting, A Compelling Psychological Thriller

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The Power of the Dog, a Netflix original motion picture, presents a captivating story of hidden emotions, inner torment, revenge, abuse, and escapism as four lives become intertwined and the intensity to hide exposes their true selves.

The film begins on the Burbank ranch in Montana, as we meet the Burbank brothers, Phil, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and George, played by Jesse Plemons. From the moment the two share the screen we see their differences, brash, abrasive, domineering and loud Phil is the opposite of his brother who speaks directly and shows little to no emotion.


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Rose Gordon, played by Kirsten Dunst a local widow runs the local restaurant and lodging, along with her son, Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who is outwardly effeminate and when the film opens, he is crafting paper flowers for the grave of his father, who allegedly died of suicide.

We meet the Burbank brothers, Phil, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and George, played by Jesse Plemons. From the moment the two share the screen we see their differences, brash, abrasive, domineering and loud Phil is the opposite of his brother who speaks directly and shows little to no emotion.

The brothers own a large cattle ranch in Montana in the early 20th century and other than the hired female help, Mrs. Lewis, played by Genevieve Lemon, the two men are alone. Today, they are driving the herd to town for sale. Whatever happened between them, the wound never healed and while they have remained living under the same roof, they share little and have less in common.

During the ride we hear Phil shout out particular orders to the crew, under no circumstance touch the dead animals as they weren't sure if anthrax set in after wolves killed them. And just the touch would seep into the skin and be deadly.


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They arrive in town, and this is when we meet the real Phil. He is abusive, a rude, aggressive bully, who seizes upon weakness, like a wild animal, torturing those he considers frail until they breakdown. We see this with his treatment if Peter. The domineering Phil, grinding and humiliating the fragile boy, into tears in front of his dozen ranch hands.

George Burbank, is more refined, refuses to engage in loud, boisterous, alcoholic induced carousing and revelry. After Phil's violently obnoxious display, he feels the need to speak with Rose to apologize. And as time passes the two are married. Peter is then sent to boarding school and Rose moves into the lifeless and cold mansion.

Summer arrives and by this time Rose, has found settling into life surrounded by her undermining brother-in-law is challenging and has used alcohol to soothe the pain and take the edge off. Phil, who we find out as the layers to his personality is pulled back, is more than an uncouth ranch hand, and under the exterior is an accomplished musician with a brilliant intellect.

Also hiding behind the rough exterior are his sexual predilections, exposed to the arts at his studies at Yale, he also suffered abuse as a child, and all indications are that he preferred men and felt this was an abomination and hated himself for it and in turn everyone else.

The summer is bringing more than simply warm weather, as Peter is home from school and Phil is teaching him to ride. As Phil abruptly changes his demeanor, the audience is placed on unsteady ground as we don't trust Phil and believe his "good will" is an attempt to lure Peter in for the kill.


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During an outing Peter explains he was the one who found his dad. This doesn't seem to be a pivotal moment for him, it is very matter of fact. His lack of sympathy or emotion over the loss of his father is the first sign, throughout the entire film, of something beneath the surface.

Campion expertly crafts the story, and it isn't until after the final credits that the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place and even leave the viewer wondering if the interpretation was accurate.

Awards season is quickly approaching, and Campion's cast is beginning to experience well- deserved notice. The cast is exceptional. The subtleties and nuances displayed by the characters adds to the mystery's that lie below the surface of each.

Power of the Dog is a masterpiece! A must see. Streaming exclusively on Netflix.


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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 126 minutes.

Director: Jane Campion.

Writer: Jane Campion.

Producer: Jane Campion, Iain Canning, Roger Frappier, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Libby Sharpe, Chloe Smith.

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee. 

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