Spling reviews The Power of the Dog, The Unforgivable and The Green Knight as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a western psychological drama, a crime drama and a fantasy adventure drama.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
THE POWER OF THE DOG
When a charismatic rancher’s brother brings home a new wife and her son, he uses his command of fear and awe to torture them.
Director: Jane Campion
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons
– The Power of the Dog is an unconventional Western psychological drama based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, which pivots on deep uncontrollable and self-destructive urges by way of a focus on a Romulus and Remus relationship pairing.
– Branching out from their fractious relationship, Phil, the more unruly of the two brothers becomes a fulcrum to this suspenseful and slow-burning Gothic drama.
– Cumberbatch delivers one of his finest performances as a cantankerous cowboy who is resistant to change and happy to exert his toxic and power hungry influence.
– While more subdued, his supporting cast rally around him with strong and beautifully restrained work from Dunst, Plemons and a quietly tenacious turn from Kodi Smit-McPhee.
– Campion is in full control, swathing us in this tense atmosphere and siphoning excellent performances from her talented cast.
– The film’s setting, genre, soulful depth, stirring performances, striking cinematography, inventive score and poetic undertone make it comparable with There Will Be Blood.
– Capturing timely themes by juxtaposing rich characters, unfurling without spoon-feeding and imbuing a raw enigmatic quality, The Power of the Dog is one of the best films of the year.
– While somewhat aloof, cold and elusive, it makes a compelling character study even if kept at arm’s length.
– Masterfully blending its iconic cinematography, complex characters, emphatic performances and substantial themes by way of sensitive direction, it remains an outstanding Western family portrait and social commentary.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
Moving on to another film now on Netflix…
A woman re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her violent crime.
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis and Vincent D’Onofrio
– The Unforgivable is based on the series, The Unforgiven, condensing the story into a Reader’s Digest worthy chronicle.
– While the series was able to take its time to cultivate turning points with more finesse, the film adaptation doesn’t have such a luxury.
– Hinging on Bullock’s unrecognisable lead performance, her typically glum disposition and gaunt look is a break from Miss Congeniality type roles, offering a refreshingly downcast and somber turn that reinforces the film’s tone.
– While there are slight glimpses of the Bullock we know and love, these moments are infrequent allowing us to be transported into this melancholic character portrait.
– Using flashbacks to help us make sense of the catalyst to the events that lead us to this point in time 20 years later, the picture becomes clearer as the mystery evaporates in a rousing third act.
– The slow-burning mood and overcast atmosphere is reminiscent of Ben Affleck’s filmmaking, strengthened by the conviction of its ensemble, the emotional turmoil and the power of the haunting reveal.
– While The Unforgivable leans on contrivances in order to move the story along, the filmmaking is so elegantly handled in every other department, that it’s heavy-handed touches are mostly forgivable.
– If you haven’t seen the series, you’ll be more enamoured by this slow and steady crime drama, which is powered by its earnest performances and anchored by a soulful emotional journey.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a film on Labia Home Screen…
THE GREEN KNIGHT
A fantasy retelling of the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Writer-Director: David Lowery
Stars: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton
– The Green Knight is an intoxicatingly mesmerising tale from David Lowery, who’s best known for A Ghost Story.
– Led by Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel, the inspired casting decision works wonders as the charming and valiant actor becomes the hero to this spellbinding dramatic fantasy adventure.
– Conjuring up epic imagery and a haunting atmosphere, similar to Excalibur, this quest is quite frustrating in spite of its inspired look, feel and sound.
– It’s a decadent audio-visual experience, but the storytelling and characterisation are painfully slow-moving, content to wallow in its artful execution over entertainment value.
– There’s a shy, absurdist and playful undercurrent that can just as easily be confused with unintentional comedy as quest font titles switch, immature bandits frolic and a distracting sidekick enters the fray.
– While offering an oasis of comic relief, these oddities detract from and undercut the epic and immersive filmmaking at play.
– The green colour palette permeates, taking on the airs of a well-known Scottish play and putting the evil in medieval through its dark age energy.
– Be prepared for as many beheadings as The Highlander without the swashbuckling or immortal lightning as The Green Knight is more of an arthouse treat.
– Light on story, heavy on legend and content to coast on its surreal filmmaking, it’s a hauntingly beautiful film for the patient.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
THE POWER OF THE DOG… strong performances and firm direction empower this tense and timely western psychodrama adaptation… An excellent 8!
THE UNFORGIVABLE… an unrecognisable lead, a powerful story, a taut atmosphere and fine supporting performances overcome contrived storytelling… A solid 7!
THE GREEN KNIGHT… mesmerising visuals, a haunting mood and a fresh take on Arthurian legend obscure sluggish and thin storytelling… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!