Benedict Cumberbatch and Elisabeth Moss star in a new period drama, “The Power of the Dog.” A pair of brothers are pitted against each other when one of them gets married.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, courtesy The Weinstein Company

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In 1920s Montana, Benedict Cumberbatch (Parade’s End, The Imitation Game) stars as the graceful and brilliant, but also cruel, Phil. His brother George (not yet cast) is stolid, fastidious and gentle. Together they run the biggest ranch in their valley, far away from the rapidly modernizing 20th century.

Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to the upcoming period drama, which it will release to the streaming service, and in theaters, in 2021.

When George secretly marries local widow Rose (Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale), and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil wages a relentless war to destroy her by using her son Peter as a pawn.

Jane Campion directs the feature film, based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The director’s previous period drama credits include Bright Star, The Portrait of a Lady, An Angel at My Table, and The Piano, which won her the 1994 Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

This is the first time Campion, whose films often focus on women who are societal outsiders, will work with a make lead. Campion also adapted the script for the upcoming movie, which is billed as “a chilling story of desire, control, and revenge with a sting in the tail that lingers long after it reaches its electrifying conclusion.”

In her statement, Campion said “‘The Power of the Dog’ is a sublime novel that deserves a life on the big screen. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, it really haunted me. The themes of masculinity, nostalgia and betrayal are an intoxicating mix. It’s also rare to find a story where the themes, the plot and the characters build tension as they reveal each other and even the end is satisfying and unexpected.”

The period drama, a “gripping psychological drama that explores the masculinity of the American West in a fresh way,” enters pre-production at the end of 2019.

In September 2019, Paul Dano (War & Peace’s Pierre Bezukhov) was in talks to join the film, but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Jesse Plemons (The Irishman) replaces him. 

The project has been developed with BBC Films, who are also backing production. In a statement, Director of BBC Films’ Rose Garnett said “We’re over the moon to be supporting Jane in her first feature in 10 years – she has been too long gone from the big screen. This is a brilliant project to herald her return; unique, poetic and totally compelling.”

Benedict Cumberbatch recently wrapped filming on Sam Mendes “1917,” a World War I drama. Unforgettable as Sherlock, the actor has starred in numerous historical dramas for screen and television, including the upcoming story of the “war of the currents” between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse: “The Current War” also stars Michael Shannon and is set for an October 4 release. Cumberbatch also starred in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Amazing Grace,” “Atonement,” “War Horse,” and “12 Years a Slave.”

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to see Period Films List. You’ll especially like the Best Period Dramas: Interwar Era List. Also see our review of the new film Dreamland.