The Power of the Dog Movie Review

Westerns are a good go-to genre every few years. The movie plots and scenery have a familiarity to them—but of course it’s the story details that change. We’re going to focus our The Power of the Dog movie review on that difference.


Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rough and very direct rancher. A trait that any head of cattle ranch would do well to have. He shares his ranch responsibilities with his completely opposite brother George (Jesse Plemons). To say that George is easier going and has rounded edges would be every bit of sarcasm.

Everyone needs love, and some seek it out. George is the latter, and we see this in a tough scene in the film with his brother as he annihilates a young man Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) for creating paper flowers by hand. Phil of course looks at this less than manly and something that requires a chastising.

This all takes place in a picturesque rooming house operated by owner/operator Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst). Director Jane Campion achieved here beautiful shots in New Zealand. Although the adapted story from Thomas Savage takes place in Montana.

It makes perfect sense that two men view eye catching plains so differently. One brother feels as though he must always embrace the rough bark part that is West. While the other is open and invites everything and everyone in the frame. This is not to say George is an inferior rancher, but that he does go through life without blinders.

And not to take away from Phil. He can have a conversation with the best of them—he’s college educated even. But he makes a conscious choice to be a difficult person. An absolute jerk sometimes in fact.

For example, he sees that his brother cares a great deal for the Rose, and right on cue he makes her feel inferior anyway that he can. His plays his banjo over her piano (play that could use more work frankly) just to keep her on pins and needles.

The film’s balance happens with small and large gestures by George aimed squarely at Rose. Assuming the duties of a waiter and motivating her to play piano for none other than the Governor.

The Power of the Dog earns an R rating. Most likely because of Phil’s mouth, and the graphic scenes of daily life on a ranch. But that aside, our summary of The Power of the Dog movie review is that you should watch it.

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy

Release date: November 17, 2021

Runtime: 126 minutes