Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem and others
Music: Hans Zimmer
Rating: 4 stars
How does one describe the first part of director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, which is based on Frank Herbert’s bestseller that goes by the same name?
Fascinating would be an understatement for the film tells a thought-provoking story that is exciting, engaging and meaningful. Classifying Dune into one genre is not going to be possible. For the film is more than just a Sci-fi thriller. It is an action adventure, a war drama, an epic fantasy and a romantic mystery all rolled into one.
Without much ado, let’s get to the synopsis:
Set thousands of years into the future, Dune tells the story of Arrakis – a planet that is home to an indigenous human civilization called the Fremen.
Just like in our world, where rich nations have exploited the natural resources of poor ones and plundered them under the garb of ruling them, here too, powerful entities from outside seek to control the planet Arrakis.
Why does everyone want to control Arrakis? It’s because the planet’s desert sands possess what is called Spice, a rare, highly valued, mind-expanding natural resource upon which space travel, knowledge, commerce and human existence all rely.
Arrakis has been badgered by the Harkkonen, a faction that is known for its brutality and savagery, for centuries. They have relentlessly mined Spice from Arakkis to accumulate and enhance their ill-gotten wealth. In the process, they have driven the original inhabitants of the land to the middle of the vast deserts of the planet, where they continue to languish in the unforgiving heat.
Now, a set of developments occur and the province comes under the control of House of Atreides, the arch-rivals of the Harkonnen.
Paul Atreides, the young son of beloved, embattled ruler Duke Leto and his concubine Lady Jessica, comes to Arrakis in a relatively comfortable state with his parents. But it is not before long that he finds himself fleeing for his life.
Fate, a power struggle, manipulation and backstabbing all play their parts into pushing Paul Atreides into a crisis. Will the prince and heir to the House of Atreides overcome this dark and difficult challenge? Only the next parts of Dune will tell…
Denis Villeneuve’s narration is just simply mind-boggling. Villeneuve’s big screen adaptation fully immerses the audience in this profoundly moving story of Paul’s coming of age set against family rivalries, tribal clashes, social oppression and ecological disaster on the unforgiving, austere planet, creating a fantastical cinematic experience that is both epic and intimate.
The film has a plot that is deep, dark, layered and intense in every manner possible. It showcases courage, faith and hope on the one hand and treachery, backstabbing, greed, power and manipulation on the other.
Dune impresses for many reasons but the most important one for me is that someone could think of such a complex yet intriguing storyline way back in the sixties. The original story was written in 1965 but what is astonishing is that it has relevance even today, almost half-a-century later.
Dune may be fiction alright. But the plot itself is so relatable to events that we encounter in our world on a daily basis that it is hard to dismiss it as being something imaginary.
Take for instance the religious group called the Bene Gesserit. The powerful group comprising only women exert influence on not just individuals’ decisions including those of the emperor but also events and developments. It shows how women have been manipulating events and developments in a bid to have outcomes that suit them.
In fact, there is one dialogue in the film that even mocks the concubine for having given birth to a son. The head of the Bene Gesserit in fact explicitly says that they have been only giving birth to daughters and scoffs at the Duke’s concubine for having given birth to a son.
I am beyond words as to how someone in the 1060s could have been able to understand the power games that women play while all along playing playing the victim.
It just goes on to prove the timelessness of the novel. That is not to take away anything from the manner in which the film has been made. It is brilliance from start to finish. Be it performances, the visual and special effects of Paul Lambert and Gerd Nefzer, Tom Struthers’s stunts, or Hans Zimmer’s exceptional score, everything is just outstanding.
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides is just perfect. Naive, innocent and fragile on the outside, but determined, resilient and optimistic on the inside, he quickly catches your eye and retains your attention. Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem all deliver commendable performances.
If the other parts of the franchise are as good as the first, then Dune will belong to one and only one category — Classic. Simply put, this is a film you just cannot miss!