The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog ★★★½

Jane Campion's dark western tale, The Power of the Dog, is a gorgeously shot examination of poisonous masculinity in 1920's Montana.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons are two brothers that own a ranch together and live a quiet life, that is until Plemons weds Kirsten Dunst and brings her into the fold. Cumberbatch is a menacing presence around her, a stiff bully that sneers through every interaction, and when Dunst's son Kodi Smit-McPhee waltzes in as an effeminate and bold young'un, Cumberbatch basically loses his shit. Calamity, haunted by gay subtext, ensues.

With a driving string-score by Jonny Greenwood enforcing the unnerving tone, nestled between all those beautiful New Zealand landscapes, Campion is flexing real hard to deliver a compelling experience. Some deep There Will Be Blood worship here and I am totally okay with that.
The acting is a bit of a mixed bag though. Jesse Plemons emanates so much authenticity and confidence that it feels like he just walked off the set of Dogville. Smit-McPhee is up to the task and Dunst has her moments too, but it's Cumberbatch who flops the assignment by deflating the dialogue with too much intensity and zero nuance.

Fortunately, after a first hour that had me on the fence, the story kicks into angsty gear and suddenly Cumberbatch clicks in with the intriguing narrative that's unfolding. The hints of gay subtext eventually manifest into some sinister drama, one that holds more substance than the courtship of Plemons and Dunst.
Overall a bit uneven but the ending really saved it for me (shhhh). I suppose I should finally check out The Piano?

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