“He’s just a man,” Kirsten Dunst whispers in the trailer for The Power of the Dog. “Only another man.” When Benedict Cumberbatch’s Phil Burbank, a cunning rancher more dangerous than he lets on, cruelly drives Dunst’s Rose and her son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), to tears, she needs the comfort just as much. Enter his rich brother, George (Jesse Plemons, Dunst’s real-life pardner), who secretly marries the widow, unfortunately bringing Phil even closer. Set in 1925 Montana, the trailer suffocates with anxiety even on the open plains. Phil’s mind games start with whistling a tune he knows Rose can no longer play. (No, that’s not the Jurassic Park theme song he’s attempting to compose.) Then his mockery of Peter appears to turn to mentorship. But from the way Rose yells after them as they ride off, it seems her mother’s intuition is saying something else. Written and directed by Academy Award winner Jane Campion in her first feature film in more than a decade, the movie is adapted from Thomas Savage’s novel of the same name and marks Campion’s first time working with a lead who suffers from being a m-m-man. At least there’s Kirsten Dunst’s palpable female energy from years of working with Sofia Coppola. Watch The Power of the Dog in select theaters November 13 or on Netflix December 1, and manifest more firsts for it: an Oscar nomination for Dunst and a Best Director win for Campion.
This post has been updated throughout.