The Power of the Dog – Movie Reviews by Ry!

The Power of the Dog – Rancher, Fools and Heart: A Retrospective

When you think about story, you think about the character’s journey.  Within that path, we are witnesses to emotional layers that can bring about an unexpected treat.  A good story will give you enjoyment, but a great one will push an everlasting thought that goes beyond the initial experience.  In this review, I look at the latest Netflix Original that puts a unique spin on the character’s journey.  A Western filled with subtle thought, it pushes the ideas beyond the typical setting.  With strong characters in a riveting tale, The Power of the Dog becomes a retrospective look on the power of one’s heart.

The story focuses on the Burbank Brothers, wealthy Montana ranchers in the 1920s.  Thinking that everything will stay the same, things change when George Burbank (Jesse Plemmons) marries widowed Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst).  When she and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) begin living at the ranch, Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) begins to emotionally torment their stay.  From the beginning, the directive is to create a Western through thoughtful retrospective of the character.  You are brought into this world through the slice of life method, layering visual aesthetics while slowly introducing the audience to the four characters (Phil, George, Rose and Peter) through a narrative dictated by mannerism, dialogue and visual ques.  Things start off slow, but when George brings Rose to the ranch, things start to happen that create a troubling friction with Phil.  His pompous attitude drives a wedge into the psyche of Rose, leveling out a fragility within conversational dynamics.  As you watch things unfold, their interactions create a dynamic of emotional fervor.  This leads to moments that highlight the main issue at hand; Phil is protective of his brother (and there way of life) and will do everything to keep Rose from meddling in their business.  Through scenes fret with embarrassing detail and madness, it is the realism drawn from subtlety that provides caution to the wind.  Everything has a loose feeling that leaves things to the unexpectedness of outcomes.  Nothing is what it seems, as the human condition is blinded with an image of hiding details within.  This provides a humanly aspect to what is really happening, which is only heighten when the son (Peter) comes into the picture.

Peter comes to the ranch for summer break (from school).  As he acclimates himself into their lives, it adds another degree to the ongoing fractured dynamic.  This fracture is pushed further when he decides to learn ranching from Phil.  The triangular effect between Peter, Rose and Phil creates the allusion of grandeur, unraveling the journey of each character in peculiar ways.  As truths come to light, it brings about an ironic wholesome feeling to the nature of emotional flaws.  This leads into a finale where attention to detail is subtle but important, bringing us to a climax where a series of decisions is consequential to all four characters.  The Power of the Dog is a thoughtful western that highlights the fracture of oneself.  If you are a fan of westerns, those involved or like thoughtful character tale, this is one for you.  It is available on Netflix, an award worthy kind of western. 

Full Score – 4.5 out of 5 (Award Worthy)

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