'Dune' Review: Denis Villeneuve's Epic Sci-Fi Adaptation Gets Spicy With Timothée Chalamet
Perhaps it'd be wise to make this review a ''Part One'' as well since the two hours and 30 minutes of Dune are certainly filled with talking points, then again we can just follow the lead of its director Denis Villeneuve and try to make a solid first effort before anything else.
Also adapted by Villeneuve alongside co-writers Jon Spaiths and Eric Roth from Frank Herbert's novel of the same name, the movie sends us first to the privileged household of the Atreides family; Timothée Chalamet as the son Paul, Rebecca Ferguson as mother Lady Jessica and Oscar Isaac as influential dad Leto. They are reassigned to rule the dangerous planet of Arrakis where they shall watch over the collection of ''spice'', a mind-bending drug. Atreides also realise that the assignment is a setup to eventually eliminate them from existence, leading them to try to reach the Fremen (native people of Arrakis who live in the desert populated also by sandworms) for help in the deadly political battle.
Since Dune is essentially the first part of a bigger story, it only feels right to keep that in mind when assessing its achievements. Villeneuve and his fellow writers do a great job of setting the stage even for those like myself who are not familiar with the novel they're adapting, the power hierarchy as well as superhuman abilities of Jessica and Paul are notable examples of that.
Furthermore and before we get to the scale and technicality, a lot of care has seemingly gone to the performances too - Ferguson being the biggest standout in the cast as she shows a lot of range with humanity, a tough feat always in a sci-fi film. Chalamet is also good as the lead while his best scenes are when he is sparring with Ferguson, then there are also nice supporting touches by Jason Momoa (as swordmaster Duncan Idaho) and most of all by Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes, an ecologist of Arrakis, controlling her scenes with subtle choices that have to do with intonation and stares.
Things get really spicy when the film starts unfolding its technical side, after its disciplined beginning that introduces the characters, because this is something where the money shows. Dune features flawless visual effects whether that's smaller scale stuff of Jessica's powers or larger world-building with aforementioned sandworms, best exemplified in that it's often hard to tell where Patrice Vermette's production design ends and VFX begin. There's a brilliant contrast going on with Greig Fraser's cinematography as intimate close-ups are often paired up with sweeping movements that show the huge scale of Arrakis. Visuals captured with cameras are in perfect harmony with one of Hans Zimmer's best musical scores, overlaying the large movements with gated synths while solo vocals are behind characters like Paul.
Overall story of this film has everything you need for sci-fi action so it does stand alone well enough, although there's a final fight that is slightly less impressive than what comes before, but still as it is the first part, it does the job rather flawlessly with plenty of visual trickery. You do wonder afterwards though because it does need a follow-up to not lose some of its value.
Smileys: Cinematography, score, Rebecca Ferguson, VFX, production design
Frowneys: Minor issues with the ending
What did a desert pirate ask when he met Paul and the rest? - ''Arr ya Kiss?''