A young member of a noble family becomes embroiled in a factional dispute in Dune.
Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is assigned to take over protection and production of spice — the most valuable substance in the universe. Spice not only powers everything, but it can also imbue those who consume it with incredible health benefits. The new post requires him to relocate his family to the planet Arrakis — the only known source of this priceless commodity.
Desperate to make his own path, the Duke’s son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) struggles to decipher nightly dreams that portend threatening challenges for the family as well as haunting images of a curious young woman. He’s also becoming aware of growing mental and physical abilities that may help to save himself, his family and his entire legacy from destruction.
This is a retelling of the 1965 sci-fi novel of the same name, which David Lynch previously brought to the big screen back in 1984. The current film is helmed by Denis Villeneuve, a director with a wildly uneven past. Villeneuve impressed with 2017’s visual masterpiece Blade Runner 2049 and 2011’s unforgettable Incendies. In between those movies, he lost me with 2013’s plotless Prisoners, 2014’s enigmatic Enemy, 2015’s sluggish Sicario and 2016’s arcane Arrival. His films match Forrest Gump‘s famous quote about a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Everything about Dune is quintessential Villeneuve. It is a bit lengthy, hangs on shots and scenes too long and doesn’t do a great job explaining things, yet I loved every last second of it. Villeneuve stays true to the book, giving you an everlasting nightmare from which you don’t want to wake. His vision surrounds you with a beautifully atmospheric story that is ominously dark from beginning to end. What struck me the most is that it managed to stick to a single perdurable tone for its entire length without once losing my interest. Much of the credit for that belongs to Hans Zimmer‘s amazing, omnipresent, signature score.
The tale itself immediately reminds you of Star Wars, but here, epic needs a new scale, and you’re only at the first part of a two- or three-part journey. I haven’t been this excited for a sequel since The Lord of the Rings.
The one concern that I had throughout is also a Villeneuve legacy. I worry that the plot fails to convey enough detail for viewers unfamiliar with the story to follow along fully. There are several warring factions involved, and keeping everyone straight will likely be a real challenge that will only make its 2.5 hours seem much longer.
The performances and effects are all first-rate. I would highly recommend seeing this not only on the big screen, but also at a theater with exceptional sound. Watching this on a laptop just won’t have the same punch.
This is a desert world with perils that I want to revisit, soon and often.