After a 12-year hiatus, Academy award-winning filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano) is back with a film that already appears both brutish and beguiling in its first official trailer. In The Power of the Dog, Campion casts Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock) against Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, The Virgin Suicides) in a tense Western drama about masculinity, romance, and, of course, power. The film is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on November 17, before quickly becoming available to stream on Netflix on December 1.
Based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name, The Power of the Dog follows “severe, pale-eyed, handsome, Phil Burbank,” (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he unleashes a campaign of torment against his sister-in-law, Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). While the trailer is good about keeping most of the film’s plot under wraps, those of you more interested in just what transpires can read the thorough Netflix description below:
The year is 1925. The Burbank brothers are wealthy ranchers in Montana. At the Red Mill restaurant on their way to market, the brothers meet Rose, the widowed proprietress, and her impressionable son Peter. Phil behaves so cruelly he drives them both to tears, reveling in their hurt and rousing his fellow cowhands to laughter – all except his brother George, who comforts Rose then returns to marry her.
As Phil swings between fury and cunning, his taunting of Rose takes an eerie form — he hovers at the edges of her vision, whistling a tune she can no longer play. His mockery of her son is more overt, amplified by the cheering of Phil’s cowhand disciples. Then Phil appears to take the boy under his wing. Is this latest gesture a softening that leaves Phil exposed, or a plot twisting further into menace?
In addition to Cumberbatch, Dunst, and Smit-McPhee, the film also stars Jesse Plemons, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy, Peter Carroll, and Adam Beach. When The Power of the Dog premieres at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2021, it was met with praise and critical acclaim particularly for Cumberbatch and its ensemble cast.