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Dune Part One
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Denis Villeneuve
scr Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
prd Denis Villeneuve, Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joseph Caracciolo Jr
with Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgard, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Chang Chen, Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun, David Dastmalchian
release US/UK 22.Oct.21
21/US Warners 2h35
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
No one makes these kinds of movies: a big-scale blockbuster that satisfies as a massive spectacle, edgy political thriller and emotional drama. Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve adapts Frank Herbert's nearly 60-year-old novel into something fresh and new, adding inventive flourishes, strongly textured characters and a series of moments that are jaw-dropping, each in its own specific way. As it reaches its open-handed conclusion, we'd happily sit there for three more hours.
With the desert planet Arrakis' valuable multi-purpose spice at stake, the empire assigns Duke Atreides (Isaac) to rule over the sand-dwelling Fremen, who reject all outsiders. The Duke's son Paul (Chalamet) has a dual birthright, both to House Atreides and as the son of Jessica (Ferguson), a member of a powerful political-religious order. But Paul has been having dreams about Arrakis, specifically the Fremen girl Chani (Zendaya), and when he arrives there he discovers an unexpected affinity, echoed by people who think he is the chosen one who will lead the Fremen to peace.
Wrinkles emerge everywhere in this story, starting with the previous keeper of Arrakis, Harkonnen (Skarsgard), who's conniving to destroy the Atreides family. Also, the spice is protected by gigantic worms that swim in the sand, providing a few enormous set-pieces of their own. Effects work is impeccable, combining with original design work to create glorious visuals that constantly take the breath away, especially when accompanied by Hans Zimmer's goosebump-evoking score.
Villeneuve never loses characters in the spectacle, and many emerge as fully formed people. Chalamet is terrific at the centre, a young man we can identify with especially in his darker moments. Ferguson emerges as his most potent costar, giving a fierce performance as a fascinating woman. And Isaac is excellent as a leader with a soul. As the family's protectors, Momoa and Brolin offer comedy along with beefy action. Skarsgard's blobby villain is horrific. And Bardem provides gritty gravitas, as does Rampling in a smaller role.
The story is set in humanity's distant future, which adds an eerie resonance to a premise that already feels familiar. The central themes here relate to power and greed, while ideas about destiny and connection provide a much more intense reverberance. Villeneuve has managed to maintain the story's grand scale while zeroing into its deeply personal angles, carrying the audience on rolling waves of action, intrigue and drama that defy the usual movie structures. Yes, the movie looks enormous, but it feels intimate and haunting.
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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