WHAT I LIKED: Classic male heroes have always been embodiments of ugly machoism and repressed emotion, so the fact that Jane Campion's 'The Power of The Dog,' serves to broadcast the toll those behaviours take on everyone involved is magnificent. After all, whilst we're used to modern movies from Bond to Scorsese "dissecting," toxic male idols, they far too commonly revel in their supposed lure at the same time.
That's certainly not something Campion can be criticised for doing here, as - whilst this may be a film with few words where the edits are long and the landscapes are sweeping - it's about as far from subtle in delivering that message as you can imagine. That's because the majority of the script is made up of scenes in which the central cowboy called Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) repeatedly bullies his more sensitive brother George (Jesse Plemons), his wife (Kirsten Dunst), and her effeminate son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Phil is convincingly played both horribly and heroically by Cumberbatch; outwardly in control of every room, followed by a league of others, insulting anything that doesn't fit his narrow expectation of masculiniity or threatens his control, and all the while being shrouded in further darkness by Johnny Goldsmith's violent, angry score.
But the film really gets into its stride when it embraces a little more subtlety in its treatment of Phil and we get a glimpse beneath his steely extreior to the repressed boy within. Cumberbatch offers a few hints along the way, but one pivotal moment reveals the reason for his rage far more explicitly, and we can then begin to engage with the humanity of Campion's whole exercise rather than just the thematic point. That in turn brings the conclusion home far more effectively - that masculine rage and repression is never a victimless crime as the cycle always passes onto others.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Because the narrative is largely so repetitive and the scenes offer nothing to figure out with their startlingly overt portrayals, it's hard to watch and engage with for the majority of its runtime.
VERDICT: Jane Campion's 'The Power of The Dog,' is a challenging watch because it uses a repetitive narrative and overt direction to portray the horrifying effects of masculine Western heroes repressing honesty and emotion.