Dune (2021) Review

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Dune (2021)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat
Zendaya as Chani
David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries
Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes
Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
Javier Bardem as Stilgar
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

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Dune was my most anticipated film of 2021. Along with sporting a massively talented cast including the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac, it is also the next film from Denis Villeneuve, who has already delivered some outstanding films like Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Prisoners and more. On top of that, he’s adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune, and although I’ve never read it and I have only watched the David Lynch adaptation, it is said to be one of the most iconic and important sci-fi novels ever. So for the talent involved I was absolutely on board and was greatly anticipating its release. Unfortunately, the wait for the release date in cinemas for Dune here in New Zealand has been delayed to December, resulting in me having to watch it through other means. All that aside, I can now confirm that it is a fantastic movie that lived up to all the hype.

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Despite this movie being called Dune in most places, the true title of this movie (as shown in the opening) is Dune: Part One. Denis Villeneuve made the decision to split his Dune adaptation into two parts, a very wise decision to me. David Lynch’s Dune attempted to adapt the novel all in one film to very mixed results. So far, Villeneuve’s adaptation really benefits from this. There is a lot of strong worldbuilding, as well as lore and characters established. It really does earn its 2 hour and 30 minute runtime. I haven’t read the book and my knowledge from it came from watching the Lynch movie, and even then I only grasped some aspects and plot details. However with Dune Part One I grasped the story and lore surprisingly well, and I wanted to know more about this world. I was on board with what was happening the entire time. The pacing is steady especially near the beginning, but I wouldn’t have changed it at all. Villeneuve does well at conveying the stakes and scale of the events and setting, while also telling a personal journey of the lead character. This movie essentially focuses on Paul’s (Timothee Chalamet) internal struggle with his growing power and the story is about him accepting his role in a coming war. Like other movies, it does have the concept of a messiah-like or chosen one protagonist but there’s something about the way its handled here that makes it feel unique. Part One does essentially serve to convey a lot of exposition and worldbuilding for the Dune universe, but it approaches it in a way that felt natural to me. Some characters are more fleshed out than others for sure but that’s to be expected with a movie on this large a scale, with so many characters to keep track of. I didn’t really have any issues with the film off the top of my head, there was a lot to take in and a second viewing would definitely help. The only thing I will note is that as you probably would’ve guessed by this point, not everything is resolved at the end, in fact most things aren’t. It does well at getting you interested in what’s to come next, but this movie’s quality in a few years from now will depend on whether Part Two can deliver.

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As said earlier, the cast is really talented and they are great in their roles. Timothee Chalamet is in the lead role of Paul Atreides. He’s a commanding screen presence and captivating as this layered character. Rebecca Ferguson is once again great, Oscar Isaac was solid as the Duke and Paul’s father, and Jason Momoa is a scene stealer and perfectly cast in his role. Other actors like Josh Brolin, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem and more also do well in their parts. Some actors have less screentime than others. Stellan Skarsgard plays Baron Harkonnen, the main villain of Dune. Despite being in under 5 scenes in this movie, he leaves a strong and memorable impression with his menacing performance. Zendaya doesn’t get a lot of screentime but her presence is felt throughout through visions that Paul has. She’s good in her scenes, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Dune: Part Two.

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Denis Villeneuve is a great and ambitious director, and his work on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 particularly felt like an audition for this movie. Unsurprisingly his work on Dune is fantastic. Again I wasn’t able to appreciate all the work done on a big screen yet, but for those who can watch it in a cinema, I highly recommend it. This movie is an absolute experience and spectacle of a film, it’s rare to find a blockbuster that actually feels this epic in scale. The cinematography from Greig Fraser is outstanding, with perfect use of framing, colour and lighting. The production designs and locations were incredibly effective. So many of the places shot were memorable and unique from other sci-fi movies, with an otherworldly look to them. The set pieces and wardrobe are well crafted and help bring this world to life. It is not an action movie by any means, but the action that is here is very well handled and shot. The score from Hans Zimmer is operatic and unique, fitting the film perfectly.

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Dune: Part One is truly an immersive experience and spectacle of a film. A fantastic and visually gorgeous sci-fi epic, with an intriguing story, characters and world, a great cast of performances, and stellar direction from Denis Villeneuve. The only thing about Dune: Part One is that essentially we are watching part one of a full story, this movie could end up becoming better or worse depending on how Part Two is. I do know that I am even more excited for Part Two now, and I really want to check out the novel it is based on. If you’re able to, try to watch Dune on the big screen because I can already tell that it’s worth it.

4 thoughts on “Dune (2021) Review

  1. Sam Simon

    The novel is worth reading, believe me! By the way, I agree with you, it’s hard to judge a movie by its first half only, but at the moment it’s certainly promising!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Denis Villeneuve Films Ranked | The Cinema Critic

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