‘The Power of the Dog’ is a dark Western worth watching 

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“The Power of the Dog” is a newly released Western film that is currently available to stream on Netflix. It is the first film in 12 years by renowned New Zealand director Jane Campion and is well worth the wait. “The Power of the Dog” is a subtle but tense film full of complex characters that is absolutely worth checking out. 

The film takes place in 1925 and revolves around two wealthy brothers, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons, who own a large ranch in Montana. Plemons’ character suddenly marries a widowed innkeeper, played by Kirsten Dunst, who then moves into the ranch with her teenage son, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Cumberbatch’s character is angered by their arrival, thinking that they are after their money, and takes it upon himself to psychologically torment them. 

The cast is strong, especially Cumberbatch, who portrays the evilness of his character with a subtleness that makes him all the more loathsome. Despite the film not overexplaining everything with tons of exposition, all of the characters are incredibly complex and have secrets they are hiding from one another. The subtle storytelling and ominous tone are some of the best qualities of the film.  

One of the most prominent themes in the film is toxic masculinity. Cumberbatch’s character is a “manly” rancher who talks down to his brother for not being as tough as himself. He eventually starts to torment Smit-McPhee’s character for having effeminate characteristics, such as having an affinity for flowers and being soft-spoken. As the film progresses, we learn more about Cumberbatch’s past and why he has such a binary outlook on gender roles. The film never tries to justify his behavior, instead analyzing what leads to it being passed down from generation to generation. 

The film is incredibly well-made, with cinematography that captures the beauty and isolation of the ranch setting. The score from Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood also adds tension to the film.  

The film is certainly not for everyone. The slow storytelling might put off many viewers, and the film doesn’t explicitly explain everything that happens in the plot. However, it is a subtle and thought-provoking film that is a rewarding experience for those that do like to pay special attention to the small details in a film.  

“The Power of the Dog” is an incredibly powerful film full of complex characters and themes. While the quality of Netflix original films and shows may be inconsistent, it is great that the streaming service is giving amateur filmmakers a platform to release films that would receive less attention in theaters compared to blockbusters, especially during the holiday season. Anyone with a Netflix account should definitely watch this film. 

Rating 4.5/5 

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