Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Currently battling Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast as the odds-on Oscar favorite for Best Picture, Jane Campion’s first film in a decade is set among the dusty valleys of Montana circa 1920, but as an examination of how toxic masculinity eats the soul, it might as well take place in 1960s Ireland, or during the Industrial Revolution, or on today’s Reddit forums. Benedict Cumberbatch stows away his Shakespearean elocution to inhabit Phil Burbank, a bullying, chain-smoking rancher with unexpressable desires he keeps padlocked behind a veneer of brutish machismo. It’s a role that plays utterly against type, but Cumberbatch turns in career-best work, in part because of the symbiosis between actor and character: both are effectively playing an elaborate game of dress-up.