'The Power of the Dog' Is the Film That Could Win Netflix Its First Best Picture Oscar

Jane Campion's dissection of the American West is a triumph.


The mythology of the American West is laden with images of masculinity. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, it’s a world where the clanking of spurs and leather conjures up a male ideal of tough, heterosexual heroism. On the surface, Phil Burbank, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog-which is being released in theaters November 17 before making its way to Netflix December 1-would look like that kind of man. He’s unbathed and unrepentant. He calls his brother George (Jesse Plemons) “fatso.” He worships his departed mentor, a man named Bronco Henry, like a god.

Phil Burbank is a man who constructed his own mythology, one which comes tumbling down over the course of Campion’s masterful film, based on the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage. It’s an epic about the way the male id can crush everyone it touches, anchored by a brilliant masquerade of a performance by Cumberbatch, his best yet.

Phil and George have been running their wealthy parents’ ranch for 25 years when the story begins in 1925 Montana. They ride into the small town where Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), a widow, runs the local inn with help from her delicate and meticulous son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who recreates flowers from his mother’s garden using paper. His fake buds are so lovely that Rose puts them out as decoration on the dinner table, where they are immediately the subject of ire from Phil. He targets Peter for his effeminacy, leaving Rose crying at the end of the night. Whereas Phil believes he was delivering hard and necessary truths, George stays behind to comfort Rose.


It’s just a short while later that George brings Rose back to the ranch as his bride, and Phil begins to insidiously and methodically torture Rose, getting under her skin as she caves under the pressure George puts on her entering an unfamiliar monied world. Phil sees her as both a social climber and an unwelcome feminine presence further preventing his softer brother from embracing his rustic qualities. Rose just wants peace. But the dynamics start to shift when Peter arrives on summer vacation, and Phil sees someone new he can mold in his own image. But unlike Phil, Peter is confident in his own skin, and is unwilling to let a tyrant determine his family’s happiness.

To say much more about the plot would be giving too much away. Campion lets the dynamics between these people simmer with the help of the beat of Jonny Greenwood’s guitar and string-heavy score, until the tale reaches a conclusion that takes the audience completely by surprise. Having seen the film twice now, the clues are all there, but you are initially so beguiled you miss them.

Cumberbatch’s penchant for playing the British upper crust works in his favor as Phil. Once you peel away the layers of grime with which he coats himself, he might otherwise be an educated dandy. He’s a man who graduated Yale Phi Beta Kappa, but pretends as if he can’t grasp basic language. It’s a balancing act that Cumberbatch pulls off with a mix of menace and deeply hidden grace that only reveals itself at the most pivotal moments. He’s matched beat for beat by Smit-McPhee, who wields his lithe body like a weapon, his big eyes always calculating. At times it looks like the mountain winds of New Zealand, which stands in for Montana, are going to sweep him away, using his billowing shirt as a sail. Peter has a coldness that evolves into the role of protector when he’s with his mother, who Dunst plays with a resolve that evaporates under the strain of the mental weaponry Phil uses against her. Dunst’s crumbling work should finally get her a long overdue first Oscar nomination.

Like Phil, who masks his deep discomfort with insults and braggadocio, The Power of the Dog waits to reveal its true nature. Greenwood’s music signals that something’s afoot, while the rich visuals captured by cinematographer Ari Wegner lure you into the vast, treacherous landscape of the mountainous West. Campion has made a film that’s deeply erotic without any sex scenes, one that teases with its gaze before it ultimately takes your breath away.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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