Jane Campion returns to feature filmmaking with her soon to be Oscar juggernaut The Power of the Dog.  This is her first film in 12 years after abruptly leaving film to focus more on TV.  Her explanation for this was simple, movies have become conservative cash cows who don’t value art, TV on the other hand gave Campion what she desires most, artistic freedom.   

Early on in the film we are introduced to the contemptible bastard Phil who seems to mock anyone who he sees as a weak link.  He is a schoolyard bully that is always on the prowl looking for his next victim.  A man who has deep insecurities, a closet gay that tries to portray himself as a macho charismatic masculine buffoon.  The target of his rage is often his brother George or as Phil calls him, “fatso”.  He later on identifies Rose as a target as well as her son Peter who he quite brutally mocks for his feminine demeanor.  No one is safe from the brutality of phil.  

The picturesque landscape of Campions native New Zealand is a welcome backdrop for this picture in what is supposed to be 1920’s Montana .  This film takes its time and lets each scene and image the proper space to breathe and for the audience to soak in all the beauty.  Viewers are sure to know exactly who is composing the score for this film as Jonny Greenwood uses motifs and themes from there will be blood.  The characters in this story are hard to understand and the audience is sure to have preconceived notions about Phil and Peter but those are not likely to stick.  Both of them are complex characters that have motivations and desires that they do not reveal to anyone. 

The Cinematography is exquisite, the lighting is just incredible in this, Ari Wegner who also was the cinematographer for another film this year, “Zola” has the opportunity to become the first female ever to win an Oscar for best cinematography.  The production design could also be Oscar worthy as Grant Major who is an academy award winner for his work on The Lord of the Rings did a tremendous job creating this 1920’s Montana in present day New Zealand.  The acting performances are certainly worth praise, as Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit McPhee all received Oscar nominations for this movie.  Some may find this film boring because of the slow methodical pace but if you are willing to take in the beautiful cinematography, production design and see meticulous character growth you are in for a treat.  This is a movie where it keeps you guessing, you cannot predict what will happen next, and you are sure to be confused and looking for answers to the ending.