Netflix may be under fire for its recent controversy with its subscribers, but that hasn’t stopped the platform from putting out some great movies that have shaped the face of cinema and filmmaking while audiences have been able to stream from the comfort of their own homes. Some of these movies included The Irishman, Romaand mudbound. However, those films were truly eclipsed with the release of The power of the dogwith Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons.
Based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 book of the same name, the film follows two wealthy rancher brothers named Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), who father restaurant owner Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and their son Peter (Kodi Smit McPhee). George is a kind and softer man who marries Rose, while Phil is a mean, vicious, and toxic rancher who believes Rose is only after her land.
The film received critical and critical acclaim for its cast, direction and cinematography, and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, with Jane Campion receiving an Academy Award for Best Director. However, that’s only a small fraction of what makes the film great, and the Oscars aren’t the only reason this film remains one of Netflix’s crowning glory. Of course, if all aspects of the film’s greatness were mentioned, we’d be here all day.
Benedict Cumberbatch is at his peak
Most people will recognize Benedict Cumberbatch from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Dr. Stephen Strange, but the actor really showed his range The power of the dog. His portrayal of Phil Burbank is a mixture of insecurity and cruel poignancy. He is first shown taunting Rose’s son Peter for his womanly manners, but as the film progresses he shows Peter a softer side, telling him about his “unconventional” relationship with his old mentor, Bronco Henry.
Cumberbatch has a sensibility in his character that balances between hate and sympathy. His performance almost rivals that of John Wayne or Walter Brennan in old westerns, and he conquers audiences with his penchant for a violent temper while hiding a secret that shames him. It seems almost impossible for an actor to pull off a role of this caliber.
Queer themes help the story thrive
In addition to Cumberbatch’s compelling performance, the film’s queer themes allowed it to rise above the average Western. Similar to Brokeback Mountain and milk, The power of the dog has queer themes that keep viewers hooked. Phil Burbank is actually a closeted gay man who masks his unorthodox sexual preferences with a rugged and tough exterior to mislead anyone who might suspect otherwise.
His secret is exposed when Peter finds out that Phil was having intimate moments with Bronco Henry’s scarf at a nearby pool, and Phil initially reacts with hostility, but then shows Peter some decency after they spend more time together.
As the film progresses, Phil slowly begins to share more about his time with Bronco Henry and becomes a more likable character as audiences now understand where his insecurities come from and why he prides himself on being arrogant and macho about himself stay. Conservation; in contrast to the queer films mentioned, which seem prouder in their portrayal.
It’s reminiscent of old westerns
What makes this particular film great in its scope is the fact that although much of the filming took place in New Zealand, it really understands the history of older western films. movies like stagecoach, True gritand Midday paved the way for the Netflix film and The power of the dog permeates its Western excellence while paying homage to the earlier classics that were, and still are, a Hollywood staple.
Netflix’s Grand Western movies on location and eschews any Hollywood CGI that’s mostly used in blockbuster movies. It prides itself on its authenticity and uses its lack of visual effects to its advantage, holding back the CGI and finding visual splendor in its cinematography as all westerns should.
The platform’s boldest endeavor
In addition to Cumberbatch’s powerful performance, his themes and his ability to stay true to western cinema, The power of the dog is quite possibly Netflix’s boldest film yet. movies like The Irishman and man are certainly worth talking about, but they don’t live up to the sheer tour-de-force of this 2021 Oscar winner.
It combines action, subtle stillness and a seriousness for 1920s American culture that cinema captured at its finest. The film’s heartfelt cinematography and chilling performances make it such a successful outing for the streaming platform. Most likely, it will become an American classic and be included in the Library of Congress.
Elisabeth Moss regrets leaving the power of the dog but has high praise for Kirsten Dunst