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TIFF 2021: “The Power of the Dog”


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jane Campion is synonymous with the craft that transforms any kind of imagination or creativity onto the big screen. The cinematic universe without her would be less significant, meaningful or complete. Therefore, expectations from her are always higher. We demand from her the best she can deliver. A story that can live with us and outside of the silver screen, where everything she puts a frame on will thrive and a new life will be breathed into.

Written and directed by the iconic Campion, “The Power of the Dog” revolves around strong brotherhood bonds that is literally unbreakable. George (Jesse Plemons, finally gets well-deserving attention) and Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) Burbank are successful ranchers with enough wealth not to worry about their future. George is a nice gentleman who’s always respectful towards others, unlike Phil who is always a badmouth, stinks insanely (you can smell it through your small or big screen) and likes that. Nothing seems could stand between the two. That changes when George marries a local widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), who has a son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Phil immediately disliked.

Phil is a brilliant rancher. Let’s not take that credit away from him. But his success with women or respects towards them is unknown, but we can guess he is always careful. We don’t know if women are not something of his interest. But he creates an image of a man nobody can mess with nor cross his path. When George marries Rose, Phil is angry, to say the least. Her addiction to alcohol is visible which drives Phil mad. When he sees her son Peter, he keeps teasing the young man. To be frank, Peter and Rose are not fond of him either. However, underneath Phil’s toughness, there is a gentle heart he seems to protect. But at some point, will begin slowly opening up with an empathy and kindness you would not imagine this man could have.

As the story occurs in the 1920s in Montana, Jane Campion does not disappoint fans, as she with great nuance captures the landscape of the western world using beautiful wide frames. Phil is the most outstanding character in the film, and you will obviously dislike him. But apart from his macho look, rudeness and tendency to be violent, he is a smart man admired by everyone. He can move mountains if he wants to; break a heart or be ruthless. In a way, he does all of them. But at some point, when he notices Peter being insulted by another man because of his feminine look, Phil will begin to soften towards Peter that will surprise everyone around.

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