Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst 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.

The Power of the Dog (2021), courtesy Netflix


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Netflix has worldwide rights to the film, which it will release to the streaming service, and in select theaters, December 1, 2021.




In 1920s Montana, Benedict Cumberbatch (Parade’s End, The Imitation Game) stars as the graceful and brilliant, but also cruel, Phil Burbank. His brother George (Jesse Plemons, Jungle Cruise) is stolid, fastidious and gentle. Together they run the biggest ranch in their valley, far away from the rapidly modernizing 20th century.

When George secretly marries local widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst, Marie Antoinette), and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil wages a relentless war to destroy her by using her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Gallipoli) 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, has worked with a make lead. Campion also adapted the script for the 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,” lands on Netflix and in select theaters December 1, 2021.

The project was developed with BBC Films, who also backed 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.”

The teaser trailer below makes it clear that the film covers some dark territory, but beyond that it really is a tease. Word is that the film is powerful and unforgettable, showcasing Cumberbatch’s finest performance to date. “The Power of the Dog” received a four-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, and the BBC called it a “five-star brooding gothic melodrama.” Everyone seems to agree that the gorgeously shot film will keep you on the edge of your seat, and guessing until the end.

Benedict Cumberbatch also stars in the recent period dramas “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” (2021), portraying the artist who rises to prominence at the end of the 19th century for his surreal cat paintings, and as Cold War spy Greville Wynne in “The Courier” (2020). In 2019, he played Colonel Mackenzie in 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 Current War” “Patrick Melrose,” “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.

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