Movie #22 2022: The Power of the Dog (2021)

Can you tell I’m finally making an attempt at seeing some of this year’s Oscar nominated films? The Power of the Dog is usually something I wouldn’t even look twice at if I’m being truthful, but since it’s got the most nominations this year (it has a whopping twelve nods altogether), it’s almost guaranteed to win something, right?

Coming from a screenplay adapted from the 1967 Thomas Savage novel of the same name, The Power of the Dog is an almost Western/Drama of sorts. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the leading role of Phil Burbank; a charismatic and imposing cowboy who is equally feared and revered in 1925 Montana. When Burbank’s brother (played by Jesse Plemons) returns home with a new wife and her son from a previous marriage, he takes an immediate dislike to them and begins to taunt and torment them until suddenly and unexpectedly he is forced to confront the possibility of love.

I guess this kind of all-American, lasso-toting cowboy shit just isn’t for me… Technically, yes, I understand the praise. However, on a personal level, this type of film – in regards to genre, pace, and subject matter – is just not what I generally look for in a movie. I’ll try to explain in more depth.

Before going in, I actually had no clue about the plot, and half way through watching, I still had no clue what the fuck was going on. If one was to define “a tense slow burn”, this would probably be it. Other than the loud gay vibes, I struggled to see where The Power of the Dog was going pretty much all the way through, so either I’m stupid or it really was that tedious. 

So, I didn’t love the whole. The sum of its parts however are often quite impressive and I mostly understand the Oscar nominations it has received when looking at this from a less biased perspective. In fact, this movie showcases an absolute masterclass in tension-building, so I’d like to officially approve Jane Campion’s Best Director nod. The cast each do a good job despite not blowing me away, and the cinematography is technically very good. However, I’m not sure I’d pick this as a winner for any of those categories. Best Original Score? Yeah, I’d say it deserves that win. 

Then comes the final thirty minutes, which was definitely the most intriguing section of the film and featured some really good storytelling. Sometimes I’m all for a slow burn, but this was wildly slow. I suppose it doesn’t help that I cared so little about every character… Maybe this movie just wasn’t for me. Who is it for? I’m honestly not sure. But it’s quite clear that with all this critical acclaim that someone is a fan.

Overall, this is a really well made film… it just didn’t interest or move me in any significant way. On a scale from 1 to I Love Cowboys, I’d rate this below News of the World but above the Dallas Cowboys. So at least it’s not the worst cowboy I’ve seen this year.

The Power of the Dog is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½

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