Dune (2021) – Review

Dune 2021A violent, sci-fi drama set in sand-swept space sounds like the perfect melting pot of all of Denis Villeneuve’s work to date. A director with a truly phenomenal body of work, Dune follows the likes of Blade Runner 2049, Arrival and Sicario as the latest film from the French Canadian film-maker. Tackling an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s much beloved series of novels, it has been confirmed that this film is merely part one of a two-part saga.

Dune centres around Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), heir to the House of Atreides and a spiritually gifted young Duke. His home planet, Calladan, has been charged with taking over the planet of Arrakis, a forbidding landscape home to the insular Fremen people. Facing this task, the House of Atreides not only have to win over the Fremen, but must do battle with the Harkonens, who have ruthlessly mined Arrakis for centuries. With war on the horizon and a planet to placate, Paul must follow the path that both his dreams and familial destiny have led to.

There is such a huge, well-known cast involved it would be hard to pick out particular performances. Stellan Skarsgard is positively odious and threatening as the Baron Harkonnen; his physicality is superb, even if he is buried in layers of prosthetics. Rebecca Fergusson, as the Lady Jessica, is ethereal with a hint of underlying violence. She is a practical woman, with a strong survivor’s instinct. Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck have an easy chemistry, as if they have been warriors together for year. Jason Momoa is sweet and dependable as the solider Duncan Idaho. It really is a brilliant cast, with Javier Bardem and Zendaya making impactful contributions despite their small amount of screen time.

For me, Timothee Chalamet isn’t quite leading man material. He gives off sad emo teen vibes as Paul Atreides and there absolutely no glimpses of the potential soldier and saviour in him. It’s clear that he is a very popular and well-regarded actor, but he just didn’t stand out in amongst this cast for me.

Greig Fraser’s cinematography is just incredible. There are huge, sweeping sandscapes, rows upon rows of battle-ready soldiers and tight, intimate close ups. There are large scale battle scenes that are almost balletic in their choreography. You are really brought into the world of Dune and, despite its scale, you are able to get to know the characters through lingering shots and beautifully framed close ups.

Robert Morgan and Jacqueline West’s costume work is also brilliant throughout. So much of the wardrobe design blends into the landscape seamlessly – be it Jessica’s trailing headdress against the sand or Duncan’s gun-metal body suit against the concrete. It all gels together effortlessly but, equally, is so intricate and well-thought out that it will require several viewings in order to take it all in properly.

Dune 2021Hans Zimmer’s score is truly something to behold here. From the whisper chants to the breathy female vocals, it totally envelopes you in the emotion of every scene. His trademark, sonorous bass line is present in moments of tension and battle. More than that, there is a real sound-scape to the entire film – from the whirring of rotor blades to the clash of swords to the gentle waves of sand – the sound and music really emphasise the size and scale of this cinematic epic.

Villeneuve – along with co-writers Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts – manages to translate Herbert’s novel into digestible chunks for the screen. There is no wondering what planet characters are on or who is on who’s side. It’s very easy to follow. The writing and characterisation completely draw you in to the action and allow you to properly immerse yourself in the action.

It is hard to see where Villeneuve could possibly put a foot wrong here. His body of work to date is nigh on perfect and Dune looks set to be a massive box office success, having already scooped over $40 million in its opening weekend.

It’s cinema with a properly epic feel to it; a film that can draw you out of your own world and totally immerse you in another.

Dune is now screening at UK cinemas.

Mary Munoz
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