Critique / “The Power of the Dog” (2021) by Jane Campion – Bulles de Culture

We understand that, due to the creative freedom granted, Netflix has become the favorite playground for directors. So after Fincher, Scorsese or even Cuarón, it’s Jane Campion who leaves her reserve with The Power of the Dog. Did the first woman to win the Palme d’Or take the opportunity to deliver us one of these jewels of which she has the secret? The opinion and film criticism of Bulles de Culture.


Charismatic authority breeder Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), tries to intimidate the new wife (Kirsten dunst) of his brother (Jesse plemons) and her young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). But well-kept secrets resurface.

The Power of the Dog : poor lonesome cowboy


Phil Burbank has only two things in common with the famous poor lonesome cowboy: loneliness and speed. But, instead of his weapon, it is the “niceties” that Phil draws very easily. A real “bully” whose main target is his young brother Georges.

The Power of the Dog is the occasion for Benedict Cumberbatch to interpret a character who is not just cold as has been the case throughout his filmography. This time he literally gives in to gratuitous wickedness and yet manages to do so with the classy sobriety that inhabits him.

The character of Phil Burbank is really not a good guy, but the one who plays Doctor Strange seems to have made the choice not to caricature a Clint Eastwood, the most common representation of the lonely man after John Wayne.

Is it a finesse of the game that lets glimpse the complexity of the character or the personality that we unconsciously attribute to the actor who persists?

Still, the relief felt, just seeing him put on decent clothes in one of the last scenes of the film, leaves room for doubt. As if we couldn’t wait for him to take off that scarecrow costume which, to our taste, looks so bad on him …

Wild wild west


Cows, mountains, secrets, hard not to think of Ang Lee’s masterpiece (The Secret of Brokeback Mountain) looking at this The Power of the Dog because there are also love stories.

In the movie Jane campion, we have a love that some find interested but which has remained secret because others would condemn it and above all, a filial love which leads young Peter to all extremes. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who shares with his oppressor a certain singularity in the physical, embodies very well this adolescent endowed with more resources than one would think.

Thus, over the course of the 4 chapters of the story, we discover / guess the complexity of each protagonist in an environment where all the truths are not told. A universe shared between loud and silent characters and where feelings are not the happiest.

The feeling of ambient malaise is well illustrated by the constant darkness that reigns in the ranch and exacerbated by the throbbing, heady and sometimes irritating cords that punctuate the story.

Everything is filmed in immensities of beauty, with moments borrowed from an unexpected and very subtle sensuality.

Our opinion ?

Those who don’t like movies where the story takes a long time (necessary?) To settle will have a hard time watching The Power of the Dog. But for those who live for those moments of cinema where we can appreciate the finesse of the staging, the choice of each shot and what it reveals about the story, it will clearly be a treat.

The fans of Benedict Cumberbatch will also be delighted to find it from every angle, just like those of the rarest Kirsten dunst.

As for Kodi Smit-McPhee, he continues to confirm all the good said by the one who played his father in The road (2009), a certain Viggo Mortensen. Just that…

Find out more:

  • The Power of the Dog is available for streaming on Netflix since Wednesday, December 1, 2021
  • The film won the Silver Lion for Best Director for Jane Campion at the Venice Film Festival in 2021
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Critique / “The Power of the Dog” (2021) by Jane Campion – Bulles de Culture