Cumberbatch, exploring very different territory as an actor here, offers the most revelatory performance of his career as Phil, a confrontationally masculine cattle rancher prone to volatile outbursts, in a performance that mixes simmering sexual tension and explosive rage.
Set in 1920s Montana, the narrative is sparked into action when Phil’s brother marries a widow and brings her, along with her ‘sissy’ teenage son, to live with them.
Unfolding with the help of spectacular cinematography and a characteristically inventive score from Jonny Greenwood, the result is a creeping, haunting exploration of toxic male violence and psychological powerplay that seems to draw on the unforgiving landscape in which it takes place.
A kind of homecoming for the director, Campion opted to shoot in the spectacular landscapes in New Zealand over the Montana plains of Thomas Savage’s source novel in order to better evoke the grandeur of the original text. The result is a ravishingly shot Western, as intimately sensual as it is elemental.