film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Power of the Dog 2021 * * * Stars


Jane Campion has done thrillers (In the Cut), comedies (Holy Smoke!), and dramas (The Piano). Now she tries her hand at Westerns with 2021's The Power of the Dog. Campion's eye behind the camera, well it sure is something to "behold" (no pun intended).  

So yeah, "Dog" is a pure, intimidatingly slighted Western piece. And its breadth and width need to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Sure "Dog's" plot about ranchers, sons, and wives via 1920s Montana seems a bit scatty. And at 125 minutes, the film tends to meander (what period drama doesn't?). Still, The Power of the Dog is old-world, wide-eyed, big-skied, and hauntingly yore-d. They don't make em' like they use to and if they did, they didn't look as good as this. 

The Power of the Dog is Jane Campion's ode to all things Terrence Malick and Paul Thomas Anderson. That's basically saying that the flick resembles 1978's Days of Heaven and There Will Be Blood. Every frame is well, a portrait. Every rack focus is um, a banquet (har har). Every pouncing note from "Dog's" film score is uh, soul-stirring. 

Campion's direction in "Dog" is impeccable as she commits to every shot. Look there's a wide angle of someone coming through an entrance at an old barn. Look there's a close-up of a key going in a keyhole. Look there's The Treasure State landscape in all its mountainous beauty. And look there's an extreme close-up of someone fiddling with the teeth of a comb. 

As for the performances in "Dog", well they are raw and subtle, a sort of motile tribute to the days of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee star in "Dog" and they deserve some serious Academy Award consideration. They are part of a character study here and not characters that speed along "Dog's" quasi, green-eyed monster tale. 

Bottom line: The Power of the Dog is an enlightened, old-fashioned night at the movies. Despite its choppy narrative, non-sequential editing, and rushed, brief cutting, this "dog" will still hunt. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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