Film Review – Dune (2021)

We’ve waited a long time for this but finally we are set for take off and a trip to Arrakis for Denis Villeneuve’s eagerly-anticipated adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert’s sci-fi opus that many have labelled unfilmable. First released in 1965, the long, somewhat exhaustive book was seen by many as the unreachable achievement, to take Herbert’s thrilling story about, well, spice. Yep, spice. Stick with us, though. Legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky famously tried his luck in the 1970s but despite the scale, scope and look of his interpretation, it wasn’t to be (though it did give us the brilliant documentary about his one-man quest to accomplish it). 

Years later, Ridley Scott was set to make Dino De Laurentiis’ long mooted version but left with David Lynch taking over and thus came the ill-fated 1984 adaptation, which saw its initial three hour long film sliced by an hour and became the brunt of much fan and critical disdain. Over the years it has garnered a huge cult following but for any virtues the film does possess, it’s still not really Dune, not in feel, sound, look nor story and its cautionary tale of production issues and biting off more than you can chew are now legendary. And so, when news of Villeneuve’s adaptation finally came to fruition, bringing a life-long odyssey full circle, it seemed that the stars and planets had aligned perfectly. But despite his exemplary work on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 – as well as Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, the list goes on – it would be still a herculean task to both undertake and to complete. We needn’t have worried.

Soaring on the wings of the director’s love of the book and the obvious advancements in technology that Lynch and De Laurentiis could have only dreamed of, Dune is a miraculous accomplishment that, alongside other recent films that have helped reshape the future of cinema, will see its reverberations felt for decades to come. This isn’t just a sensational sci-fi extravaganza or a brilliant adaptation of Herbert’s work, it’s a new calling card for the industry that despite its obvious IP benefits, is an example of a studio and filmmaker in complete synergy and said filmmaker being allowed to execute his vision without the aforementioned Hollywood buzz word leading from the front even if its Part Two is counting on it.

Its scope and scale is evident from the first seconds right up until its beautiful finale, but it’s Villeneuve’s passion and obsession (in the best way) that guides Dune through the dense, convoluted but ultimately rewarding story of Paul Atreides (a sensational Timothee Chalamet) as we learn – as he does – about his purpose and journey, as well as his family’s importance (Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac similarly magnificent as his parents) and the impending doom harboured by the brutal Harkonnen. Led by the unrecognisable Stellan Skarsgaard and brooding David Bautista, their race wants one thing: control of the Spice that will see the destruction of Arrakis where it only exists and that of the Fremen, led by Stilgar (Javier Bardem, strong) and Chani (Zendaya, brilliant and beguiling) someone Paul has dreamt about many times before. 

At just over 2 ½ hours, many will be question both that and the story itself beforehand in terms of what it’s about and how heavy it all is but trust us when we say those fears will be allayed within minutes once the expansive, all-encompassing world is unveiled before your eyes like nothing you have seen before. There truly is something for everyone, here: sci-fi, action, romance, even some notes of comedy too, weaving around its story that tackles coming-of-age, war, religion, technology, terrorism, even the pandemic strangely enough, all combining to make one electrifying and one-of-a-kind film event that not only does everything it sets out to note-perfect and then some, as well as confirming Villeneuve as one of modern cinemas true purveyors of the art form. Astonishing. 

★★★★★


Sci-Fi, Action, Drama | Cert 12A | Warner Bros | October 21st, 2021 | Dir: Denis Villeneuve | Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling