No spoilers: “The Power of the Dog” film review

Elvira Rodriguez is a junior Media & Communication major and movie buff. This week, she’s reviewing the 2021 Oscar nominated western drama, “The Power of the Dog,” and drawing comparisons to the 2007 film, “There Will be Blood”.

Jane Campion is a writer and director who isn’t discussed a lot these days, and for good reason.

She hasn’t released a movie since 2009 and her career peaked when she did “The Piano” — a work that won the Palme d’Or for best movie and an Oscar for Holly Hunter.

Now, Campion is back with a film that rivals “The Piano” in quality called “The Power of the Dog,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons.

The film is a slow-paced western about the Burbank brothers and how they handle their ranch.

But it’s so much more than that.

Throughout the last 20 years, Hollywood has tried to revive the typical western many times. Whether it was a remake of a beloved classic like “The Magnificent Seven,” or a complete modernization of what we know and love such as “Django Unchained”.

However, we are forgetting one type of modern western that takes the genre and pushes it into new territory — the gritty drama about an old angry man trying to get what he wants, no matter what. Such is the case with “There Will Be Blood”.

Main character of “There Will Be Blood,” Daniel Plainview, and “Power of the Dog” main character, Phil Burbank, are both sides of a same coin in a way. One holds his anger until he thinks it’s necessary to show, striking fear in those around him with words and strategy. The other dives into that anger, showing it immediately as he feels it, always looking for a fight and the respect of others.

“Power of the Dog” on the surface may not be the knockout comparatively, but if we look deeper, it tells another story about a man coming to terms with his past and who he really is.

As the movie closes, every act of anger Phil did to somebody is returned to him, but he is willing to accept his mistake and forgive himself for his actions.

Besides Campion’s great writing and directing abilities, the way she brings the best out of actors is a big reason why her movies are interesting to see.

Campion takes Dunst and manages to get from her an amazing and melancholic portrait of a broken widow who just wants her son to have the best life she can afford to give him.

Cumberbatch, who is charming in most of his roles, manages to scare, captivate and intrigue with a layered performance that deserves all the award nominations it received.

The only cast member that was disappointing, compared to what he has done recently, is Plemons. He just did the usual cerebral, restrained performance in a western setting.

Sadly, even when the movie has one of the most surprising endings of the year, it has the same problem as “The Piano” of having too much stuff that could easily be cut out and have the movie flow a bit better.

Nonetheless, “Power of the Dog” certainly deserves all the nominations and praise it has gotten recently. It redefines the western once again and makes it fresh for a new generation.

So, is it Oscar worthy?


Would I recommend this?


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