Dune review: A Denis Villeneuve movie ★★★★☆

7 mins read

The highly anticipated sci-fi epic Dune follows Paul (Timothée Chalamet) as he struggles to accept his destiny and lead the house of Altreides.

The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, (Prisoners, Blade Runner 2049) is an adaption of Frank Herbert’s classic novel. Unlike David Lynch’s 1984 film, this new adaptation only covers the first half of the story- it is only part one of the overall epic.

The film has an A-list ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa.

Dune is certainly made for the cinema, it’s grand in scope, the action is epic and Hans Zimmer’s score booms throughout. It is definitely one of the best sci-fi films in recent years, it feels bigger than any Star Wars film and yet has many intimate scenes throughout. Greg Fraser (Rogue One, The Batman) does a magnificent job as cinematographer.

The cast was certainly the highlight of the film for me. Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars) gives an intense performance and has great chemistry with Chalamet, as does Rebecca Ferguson (Doctor Sleep, Mission Impossible).

Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa were also scene stealers and had some gripping moments, despite their small roles. Zendaya is also in the film, however I was surprised at how small her role was considering how they marketed her as being a co-lead with Timothée Chalamet, however she is only really in the last 20 minutes, but she makes good use of her limited screen time. 

Another highlight was the overall production design of the film. The worlds that we see, feel lived in, it never feels as if we’re watching something made on a green screen. The cultures feel rich due to the detailed set design and the beautiful costume design, the CGI is flawless and never takes you out of the experience. 

Although Dune has many epic sequences, it also has a very peaceful atmosphere at times, it takes its time and allows scenes to breathe. So when the big scenes hit, you really feel the enormity of what is happening, as you’ve spent so much time building up to it and exploring the quieter moments of these characters lives. 

One of the best sequences in the film was during the second act when Paul and his Father first encounter the iconic sand worms that roam the desert world of Arrakis. The scale of the sequence is jaw dropping, as the terrifying creature consumes a large vehicle, to the shock and awe of the characters from a distance. It was a grand sequence, which really benefited from watching it in the cinema. 

However, the film isn’t perfect. It has a rough start with overloads of exposition, some of which is done well and some not so much. It felt tricky at first to get emerged into the story because there was so much that we had to understand about the plot, there is so much history, which makes the first 15-20 minutes quite challenging as you’re trying to keep up and remember all of these names and the politics going on in the world. However, the majority of the exposition is out of the way by the end of act one, and the story flows better from there.

As previously mentioned this is only part one of the story, and while part two has not started production, or even been confirmed, I would imagine that it will further develop Timothée Chalamet’s character and give Zendaya a larger role. However since only part one is out, I need to judge this on it’s own.

I admit, if part two isn’t made, it will feel a bit of a waste, as so much of this film is dedicated to setting up the conflict that we would see in the next chapter. While other films have done the same, such as The fellowship of the ring, I felt as if that stood on its own more as a movie, and had more pay offs, whereas I feel the overall satisfaction from Dune will rely on how good the next chapter is. 

When talking to Fandango, Director Denis Villeneuve anounced that if there is a sequel, it will be “built into cinematic action and less talking”, emphasising that he has laid the foundations of the world and he can have a “blast” with part two. Considering the action sequences were some of the highlights from this film and the exposition a low point- I imagine part two will be an improvement, and will hopefully make all of the set up here worth it. 

Overall Dune was a great experience, which I would recommend seeing on the big screen, if possible. There is a great atmosphere to the film, with great performances on a mesmerising scale. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy sci-fi or even just movies like Denis Villeneuve’s then this might be for you.

Dune is out in cinemas now.

Featured image credit: Vanity Fair

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First year film and media student.

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