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Jane Campion
Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons
Jane Campion
Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 128 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 11/8/2022

• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “Reframing the West” Featurette
• “The Women Behind The Power of the Dog” Featurette
• “Anatomy of a Score” Featurette
• Interview with Novelist Annie Proulx
• Trailer
• Booklet


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The Power of the Dog: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 15, 2022)

Probably best-known for 1993’s Oscar-nominated The Piano, Jane Campion returned for her first film in 12 years via 2021’s The Power of the Dog. Adapted from a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage, Dog offers a Western set in Montana circa 1925.

Brothers Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) operate their own ranch. Both show dissimilar personalities, as Phil seems arrogant and boorish while George feels low-key and subdued.

When widowed lodging house owner Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) and her teen son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) enter the equation, though, matters take a turn. When Rose and George become a couple, this creates complex emotions in Phil that complicate matters.

Though Dog represents Campion’s eighth film, it becomes only the second to come in front of my eyes. Piano didn’t interest me at all in 1993, so I only ever saw 2004’s thriller In the Cut, a movie notable for Meg Ryan’s ample nudity and little else.

The good reviews for Dog and its strong cast gave me some optimism Dog might work, though. Happily, it fares much better than In the Cut and becomes a fairly compelling variant on the Western genre.

Phil offers an unlikable character, though one who becomes slightly more sympathetic as the film goes. Phil dispatches casual cruelty and does so with little apparent regret, a nastiness that remains unexplained through much of the story.

However, aspects of Phil’s character evolve in a gradual manner that allows for us to understand his behavior. We may not agree with his methods, but his ugliness appears more understandable as we get to know him.

While he still can’t pull off an American accent to save his life, Cumberbatch gives the character the right cold-eyed sense of cruelty. Phil acts as a difficult character and Cumberbatch plays him with a refreshing unwillingness to ask for the audience’s sympathy.

Much of Dog progresses without a clear plot, but it nonetheless manages to evolve its participants in a positive manner. We get a “slow burn” story as the character interactions bring us the “narrative” we need.

Indeed, Dog can often feel more like a horror story than a Western, as Phil’s inherent cruelty makes him seem malevolent much of the time. In particular, when Phil sets his sights on Peter, a sense of dread comes over the viewer.

Dog doesn’t present this material in an exploitative manner. Instead, it gives the roles a beating heart that means the tale develops well.

And it comes with a punch at the end. Dog doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but it acts as a good genre variant with some real depth involved.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Power of the Dog appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film boasted fine visuals.

Sharpness worked well. Virtually no softness emerged in this precise, tight presentation.

No issues with moiré effects or jaggies occurred. I saw neither edge haloes nor source flaws.

In this Western setting, the film favored an often amber/dusty palette, with a fair amount of teal thrown in as well. Within the stylistic constraints, the Blu-ray reproduced the colors in a favorable manner.

Blacks came across as deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and well-developed. The movie offered pleasing picture quality.

In addition, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio satisfied. Music showed nice stereo presence, while effects added immersive material. The various sequences boasted fine use of the side and rear speakers, all of which brought us into the story well.

Audio quality seemed strong. Music was full and rich, while dialogue seemed natural and distinctive.

Effects offered clear elements, with warm, tight lows. Though not a consistently active affair, I still liked the soundtrack for Dog.

A few extras appear, and Behind the Scenes with Jane Campion runs 17 minutes, 31 seconds. This offers an interview with writer/director Campion interspersed with shots from the set.

Campion discusses the source novel and its adaptation, story and characters, and some notions about the production/personal reflections

We hear surprisingly little from Campion. She adds some good thoughts but doesn’t comment as much as expected.

Still, “Scenes” becomes a worthwhile program. Campion tells us enough to give us some useful material, and the material from the shoot helps.

Reframing the West goes for 28 minutes, 14 seconds. It offers notes form Campion, producer Tanya Seghatchian, cinematographer Ari Wegner, editor Peter Sciberras, costume designer Kirsty Cameron, production designer Grant Major, makeup artist Noriko Watanabe, producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, supervising sound editor Robert Mackenzie, composer Jonny Greenwood and actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirtsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

“West” looks at the novel and its path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, Campion’s impact as director, photography and production design, sets and locations, costumes, editing, and score/sound.

Expect a pretty good show here. “West” offers a fairly positive overview of the flick’s creation.

Next comes The Women Behind The Power of the Dog, a 23-minute, 30-second reel with comments from Campion, Seghatchian, Wegner, Dunst and filmmaker Tamara Jenkins.

They chat about story/characters, cast and performances, visual design, photography, and other aspects of the production. Some new notes emerge here, but we also find repetition from the prior programs. We also find too much praise, so this becomes a spotty discussion.

Anatomy of a Score spans 13 minutes, 25 seconds and features info from Campion and Greenwood. They relate aspects of the movie’s score in this fairly informative piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc finishes with Annie Proulx, a 13-minute, 18-second interview with the novelist behind Brokeback Mountain.

She tells us of her encounter with Dog novelist Thomas Savage as well as the book’s reception/legacy and her thoughts about the novel and the movie. Proulx offers some intriguing notes.

The set concludes with a booklet. It offers photos, credits and an essay from critic Amy Taubin. It completes the package on a positive note.

As a variation on the Western, The Power of the Dog offers a fairly compelling tale. While it takes some time to get into a groove, it proves winning in the end. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals and good audio as well as a decent array of bonus materials. I recommend this rich character drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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