Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling
Directed by Denis Villenevue
Written by Frank Herbert (Adapted from the novel by) Denis Villenevue, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts
Often described as an ‘unfilmable’ novel, Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic has seen many directors try, without much success, to bring its story to life on the big screen. Most notably attempted by Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 70’s, and then later converted into a major blockbuster by David Lynch in the 80’s, who felt deeply unsatisfied by the final result due to studio interference, it seems that to take up adapting ‘Dune’ has always been a doomed task. However, if there was any director who might have a chance of turning a great text into a great film, it’s Denis Villenevue – the man responsible for some of the most original and creative blockbusters this side of the 2000’s.
Garnering widespread attention from early in it’s production, ‘Dune’ stirred up a lot of conversation not only due to its ambitious source material, but also because of the incredible cast that the filmmakers appeared to be assembling. Timothée Chalamet, fresh off the heels of ‘The French Dispatch’ being released earlier in the week, takes up the lead role of Paul, the youthful son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), leader of house Atreides – one of the key families who rule over the universe. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), however, is also from a powerful bloodline, being an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, a female order whose advanced physical and mental abilities are unmatched. One of the many things which I admired about ‘Dune’ was its focus on a Mother-Son relationship to lead the film, as such dynamics are rarely explored on these large scale productions. Together, Chalamet and Ferguson put in some brilliant performances, and the complexity of their relationship develops along with the narrative, drawing on moments of uncertainty as to whether they each have the best interests of the other at heart.
To talk about ‘Dune’ and not mention its visuals would not do the film any sort of justice. Greig Fraser’s camerawork is absolutely breathtaking at times, delivering everything you’d want from a sci-fi blockbuster, and more. The colour palette consistently plays around with yellow and orange tones, painting each scene with its own beautiful composition. Furthermore, the costume and set design on display are just as incredible. There’s a clear divisiveness between the futuristic setting and the traditional values and styles upheld by the characters that never needs to be mentioned aloud by anyone, as the art department does such a brilliant job showing this juxtaposition visually. Despite being two and a half hours in length, no shot ever feels unnecessary, and no shot ever seems to let down the intriguing and meticulous aesthetic which is established throughout.
The first of two parts, Denis Villenevue absolutely made the right decision when it came to adapting Herbert’s eight-hundred page novel. Despite going into ‘Dune’ knowing that it would ultimately end on a cliffhanger, I never felt that the film served only to lead into the second. Character and story arcs were established and developed within the space of the film in a captivating and gripping manner. The way in which Villenevue is able to introduce each character and perfectly encapsulate their personality within minutes is a talent that was required when working with such an all-star cast, and as a result the film’s pacing is absolutely perfect. Each sequence works not only within its own space, but also to serve the greater narrative. ‘Dune’ is a masterclass in filmmaking on perhaps the biggest level, just as all of Villenevue’s films are, and I imagine Part Two will be no exception to the rule. We can only wonder how our own stories will have changed when we sit down for the next installation in two years time.