The Power of the Dog

image from the film The Power of the Dog

image from the film THE POWER OF THE DOG

Campion’s superbly crafted adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel is a gothic thriller wrapped in a Western.

The story of two brothers—one charismatic and cruel, the other shy and gentle_who live together on a Montana ranch in the 1920s, whose already strained relationship is further tested when George, the gentleman, brings home a bride, Rose (Dunst), along with her teenage son, Peter (the remarkable Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil’s (Cumberbatch) cruelty toward Rose and Peter is chilling, but while Rose turns to alcohol to soothe the pain Phil inflicts, Peter proves a formidable adversary, attracting Phil’s respect, and perhaps even love.

The Power of the Dog builds tremendous force, gaining its momentum through the harmonious discord of its performances, the nervous rhythms of Jonny Greenwood’s score and the grandeur of its visuals. Here, in Campion’s sensual realm every ray of light and nubby texture adds to the cascading meaning: the down on a man’s arm, the backlighted mane of a horse, the gleam of running water, a hand on a shoulder. It’s easy to sum up the movie: it is at once a revisionist western, a mystery (pay attention to the gloves!), an exploration of masculinity and femininity, a lament for the limits the world puts on us and those we shoulder until we can no longer bear them. And while it is a tragedy, it is also a liberation story, including for a genre again renewed by a brilliant, unfettered director.” (Manohla Dargis, NY Times)