Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bene-dick is not the only surprise in NZ’s top Oscar contender The Power of The Dog. Jane Campion’s latest is a treat of jealousy, sexuality and sensitivity set in the sprawling American ranching West, and is a real show of filmmaking strength.
Our Aotearoa hasn’t looked this beautiful on screen since the Tolkien Saga with our meadows, scenic views and long-grown grass looking incredible. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood once again stuns with a terrifically tense score (his agents’ ability to snag these gigs still impresses me). The acting is expectedly amazing between Campion’s talented cast. Sure, Cumberbatch takes centre stage, but Smit-McPhee and Dunst are so close to rivalling his presence, creating tension and drama that seem to drive their emotional capacities to the limits. And it’s these dynamics that are subverted by Campion’s extraordinary subtlety of story beats and relationships that you’ll miss if you blink. A lot of the plot is left up to the viewers to piece together, and you’re bound to make assumptions that lead you to miss key consequences and themes upon first viewing. While it can lead to the movie feeling dreadfully slow in it’s beginning and, at times, too vague for my liking, repeat viewings are necessary and even an exciting prospect, if you want to uncover the movie’s secrets. And even then, you’re given a fantastic visual treat, so who could complain?
Eight out of ten. Also, Benedick… so definitely no complaints.