Power of the Dog

This is a powerful movie. How one reacts to this power depends on where they are coming from and their own experiences with evil people. My wife and I started watching it and we turned it off about 15 minutes in. The blatant anger and seething hate in Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) was so obvious and too much for us.

I went back the next day and watched the rest. There were a number of moments where I literally shouted at the tv: “Oh, come on, now.” These were where I felt the point was made, then over-made in such a blatant way, as to be almost offensive to the sensibilities. I’m glad I stayed through the ending, which was redemptive. The movie is powerful in that it stays with you, but in my opinion, it is not the great enigma critics are making it out to be. A NYT critic actually called the ending that. As if there was a question about what happened? It couldn’t have been any clearer without getting beat over the head.

The thing is, my wife and I have experienced an evil person. A malignant narcissist. Once you rip away the human veil and see the snake, you become adept at seeing that kind of person. There was doubt for us who Phil was from the start and he proceeded at every turn to confirm not only his evil, but his brokenness. We get to learn some of what broke him, including his mentor, Bronco Henry. We learn how he’s built his own prison. It’s nature and nurture that build such a person.

Redemption is considered the strongest character arc. But the reality is that certain people are NOT redeemable. Especially when they have no desire to be redeemed. There are people who revel in other’s pain. Most particularly in causing other people’s pain. It’s a game that gives them pleasure.

I felt overwhelmed by what was presented in the movie. I also could clearly see where it was headed. The ending, in a way, was inevitable. If it didn’t end that way, then there would be no point to it other than as a warning.

It bothered me that it was supposed to be set in Montana and so clearly wasn’t. Why not just set it in New Zealand where it was filmed? Which reminds me of a movie that had a similar message but I thought was better: The Nightingale.

Both movies deal with an evil person. And both indicate there is only one recourse to take with them. They cannot be rehabilitated and changed. They destroy everything and everyone around them. Either subtly or overtly.

I ruminated on why so many people are enraptured by this movie. Why they wondered at the plot twists and the ending? Then I realized that 67 million people voted for a malignant narcissist a second time even after he unequivocally proved what he was after four years in the White House. I’m not being partisan here. I’m simply stating reality.

The fact that so many people can’t see an evil person for what they are is scary, but understandable. Thus, Power of the Dog works for them if they can see the message coming through the story.

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