Other strong points of The Power of the Dog include the cinematography by Ari Wegner, which is beautiful, though never flashy — it is always in service of the story. And the script by Campion, based on the novel by Thomas Savage, is economical, nuanced, and superb. At times you can wonder where some of the scenes are going, but they all tie together in the end. The score by Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood, The Master) of Radiohead is equally well done — unobtrusive but unsettling when it needs to be.
“…I just can’t stop thinking about it…”
Not everything is executed perfectly. I’ve mentioned some casting shortcomings. And there’s a scene with Cumberbatch’s character meant to reveal a deeper, hidden side of him that almost made me laugh out loud because it was so uncharacteristically free of nuance. Also, a couple of characters that we’re invested in disappear for long stretches of time because they just have nothing to do while the plot builds.
The closest comparison to The Power of the Dog may be There Will Be Blood. Both are early 20th century portraits set in the American West of men unraveling from their own mental straitjackets, and both feature a Jonny Greenwood score. While this is not quite as epic or iconic as Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic, it deserves to be judged on its own merits. It is a worthy return to feature directing by Jane Campion and a thoroughly relevant film to our modern discourse. After seeing it yesterday, I was somewhat lukewarm on it. But I just can’t stop thinking about it, and as I remember all the seeds planted in the story that come to fruition in the end, I’ve come to think of it as one of the strongest films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
The Power of the Dog screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
"…this is an anti-Western, but not quite in a way we’ve seen before."