Based on the novel by Frank Herbert, Dune-Part One is the story set in the future where a noble family arrives on a planet to watch over the control of a secret mélange where a young man is thrust into a war between colonials and an evil group of invaders. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and screenplay by Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts, the film covers the first half a story of a young man who takes part in a conflict where he would lead a group of colonials in a futuristic planet carrying a mélange that changes the universe. Starring Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Charlotte Rampling, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem, and Stellan Skarsgard. Dune-Part One is a majestic and grand film from Denis Villeneuve.
Set in a futuristic universe in the year 10,191, the film revolves around a noble family who is asked by an emperor to watch over the harvesting of a mysterious mélange on a planet unaware that they’re being set-up by a rivaling house who had been waging war on the planet’s inhabitants. It is a film that may have a simple premise on paper but it is filled with layers on its themes on power, idealism, colonialism, and politics. The film’s screenplay by Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts definitely play into a lot of the conflicts that goes on where the actions of the House of Harkkonen led by its baron (Stellan Skarskard) in going to war with the inhabitants of the planet of Arrakis in the Fremen forces its emperor to end the conflict by having the Harkkonens leave the planet and ask the House of Atrides led by Duke Leto Atrides (Oscar Isaac) to watch over the planet and its production of its resource in this mélange that makes interstellar traveling possible.
Traveling with his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their son Paul (Timothee Chalamet) along with several officials, Duke Atrides hopes to make peace with the Fremen and continue production of the spice yet Paul, the weapons master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), and sword master Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) believe something is off. Especially as Idaho had been learning about the Fremen as he was able to get its chieftain in Stilgar (Javier Bardem) to have discussions with Duke Leto leading to the first steps of a peaceful resolution while planetologist Dr. Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) reveal much about the planet as she is aware that Paul is having dreams and visions that is increased by his contact with mélange. Even as Paul had been taught in the teachings of his mother who is a disciple of the Bene Gessirit sisterhood, who are powerful in both they’re physical and mental abilities, as her mentor in Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) realizes that Paul is a threat as she asks Baron Harkkonen to spare Paul and Jessica which he agrees to unaware that he plans on killing them all.
The screenplay does a lot in not just fleshing out these characters but also play into the stakes of what the House of Atrides is dealing with as they begin to ask questions about why they’re in Arrakis. Even as Paul becomes a target with some believing he is a prophet that will help the Fremen rebel against the emperor though Paul himself is unsure while a lot of the dreams he has features a young woman he would meet in Chani (Zendaya). There are also a lot of political maneuvering in the hand of the Harkkonens as they are intent on having control of the mélange in an act of greed and domination as they treat the Fremen as vermin. There is a structure to the script as it does play into the development of Paul Atrides but also in this journey of the role he has to play as he has to cope with loss as well as things he has to do for the greater good.
Villeneuve’s direction is definitely vast in its presentation as it plays into the different worlds of the universe as it has a physicality that isn’t seen often in sci-fi films. Shot on various locations in the Liwa Oasis at United Arab Emirates as parts of Arrakis along with the deserts of Jordan and Stadlandet as the House of Atrides’ home planet of Caladan plus studios in Budapest for some of the interiors including the home planet of the Harkkonens. Villeneuve maintains a world that grand where the future is this massive universe and Arrakis is at the center where Villeneuve uses a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the look of this desert world with the sand being this mélange that has mystical quality that does more than provide a resource for interstellar traveling during a scene where Duke Atrides, Paul, Gurney, and Dr. Liet-Kynes are saving harvesters where Paul gets close into contact with the mélange.
Villeneuve also uses close-ups to play into Paul’s interaction with the mélange as well as the dreams he have that often feature Chani as well as images possibly relating to future events and such. There is a physicality to Villeneuve’s presentation in the dragonfly-planes that the House of Atrides uses as well as other spaceships along with some of the designs of the sandworms who move around the desert. Villeneuve emphasizes more on this air of physicality as well as the presentation of other planets including a planet where the emperor’s soldiers as it this desolate and rainy world while the Harkkonens’ home planet is just as dark in comparison to the desert beauty of Arrakis. Even in the film’s second act where Paul and Lady Jessica hide from the Harkkonens and the emperor’s army with the aid of Dr. Liet-Kynes and Idaho, there is this air of realism into the locations and places where Villeneuve’s usage of tracking shots play into the suspense.
Villeneuve also play up into this world of politics such as scene of Duke Atrides being confronted by Baron Harkkonen as the compositions that Villeneuve create is filled with this dramatic tension while the third act plays into the aftermath of the threat that is Paul Atrides. Notably as Atrides and Lady Jessica deal with the world they’re in but also revelations about why their house was sent to Arrakis. The final moments of the film is more of setting up of what is to come since the film basically sets up a lot of what happens in the first half of the book. Yet, Villeneuve is able to do more than just establish the world and these characters but also the stakes itself in what Paul has to do for Arrakis and the universe itself. Overall, Villeneuve crafts a ravishing yet intoxicating film about a young man taking his steps into finding himself amidst a troubling intergalactic conflict on a repressed planet.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser does incredible work with the film’s cinematography in its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the daytime exterior scenes on Arrakis along with some of its interior scenes in the caves and tunnels along with the usage of low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Joe Walker does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action and drama while also knowing when to have shots linger for a bit to play up the suspense. Production designer Patrice Vermette, with supervising art director Tom Brown and senior art director Karl Probert plus set decorators Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos, does phenomenal work with the look of the city and spice refinery on Arrakis as well as the space ships and the way the home of the Harkkonens look as it play into their personality. Costume designers Bob Morgan and Jacqueline West do amazing work with the design of the refined suits of the House of Atrides as well as the gowns of the Bene Gessirit and the clothes of the Harkkonens.
Hair/makeup/prosthetics makeup designer Donald Mowat does brilliant work with some of the prosthetics that include some of the makeup of the characters such as Gaius Helen Mohiam and some of the Harkkonens including Baron Harkkonen in his obese yet larger-than-life persona. Special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer and visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert do superb work with the effects from the usage of prosthetics in the look of some of the space ships along with digital effects into the look of the giant sand worms including the detail in its mouth. Sound editors Theo Green and Mark A. Mangini do tremendous work with the sound as it adds to the film’s atmosphere in the way the sand worms emerge along with the thumpers to attract their attention as well as the way the space ships and such sound as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is sensational for its bombastic score that features elements of bass-heavy electronics and orchestral bits along with vocal choirs and such, with vocal contributions from Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, to play into the scale of the film as it is a highlight while music supervisors Peter Afterman and Alison Litton cultivate a soundtrack that features some folk-like pieces and other electronic pieces to play into the world that the characters are in.
The casting by Jina Jay and Francine Maisler is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Roger Yuan as Gurney’s right-hand man Lt. Lanville, Golda Rosheuvel as the Fremen maid Shadout Mapes who assists Lady Jessica in Arrakis, Benjamin Clementine as an imperial delegate who brings an order to Duke Atrides early in the film, Babs Olusanmokun as a Fremen in Jamis who challenges Paul’s allegiance late in the film, Chang Chen as Suk physician Dr. Wellington Yueh who works for the House of Atrides as he is a man dealing with conflict of his own, David Dastmalchian as the Harkkonen official who aids in political dealings and matters of torture, Stephen McKinley Henderson as the House of Atrides’ official Thufir Hawat who also deals in political matters and the handling of security, and Zendaya in a fantastic small role as the Fremen Chani who appears in Paul’s dreams as a symbol of hope as well as someone who is part of a rebellion against the Harkkonens and the emperor. Dave Bautista is superb as Baron Harkkonen’s brutish nephew Glossu Rabban as a figure who kills people and does whatever his uncle asks him to while also realizing the big threat this is Paul Atrides.
Javier Bardem is terrific as the Fremen chieftain Stilgar as a man who is suspicious of the House of Atrides’ arrival only to realize their motives as he would play a bigger role late in the film. Sharon Brewster-Duncan is excellent as Dr. Liet-Kynes in a role that was originally as a man where Brewster-Duncan brings a lot of gravitas and charisma to the role as a planetologist who works for the emperor yet realizes that something isn’t right where she would help out the House of Atrides as she knows a lot about life on Arrakis. Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin are amazing in their respective roles as Paul’s mentors in the sword master Duncan Idaho and the weapons master Gurney Halleck as two men who teach Paul on the ideas of combat with Momoa as someone who got to know the Fremen as he is also aware that something is off while Brolin’s performance as Gurney is more reserved as someone who isn’t as trusting as Idaho but is loyal to the House of Atrides. Charlotte Rampling is brilliant in her small role as Gaius Helen Mohiam as the Bene Gessirit Reverend Mother who tests Paul on his skills and realizes that he is powerful where she sees him as a threat.
Stellan Skarsgard is incredible as Baron Vladimir Harkkonen as this evil and greedy figure who is obese and creepy in his look while displays a chilling tone to his character as someone that wants it all and to destroy everyone in his path. Oscar Isaac is remarkable as Duke Leto Atrides as the head of House of Atrides who is hoping to bring peace and prosperity to Arrakis while learning that he’s become a political target where he copes with not just the expectations for his son but also the fate of his family. Rebecca Ferguson is phenomenal as Lady Jessica as Duke Atrides’ concubine and a Bene Gessirit priestess who taught Paul special vocal powers as she deals with her role as a Bene Gessirit but also the big role that Paul might have to play. Finally, there’s Timothee Chalamet in a tremendous performance as Paul Atrides as the son of Duke Atrides who is a young man trying to learn about the universe as he has visions that could be about the future while dealing with the role he has to play where Chalamet brings a lot of that air of uncertainty but also someone who knows he has to grow as it is a career-defining performance for Chalamet.
Dune-Part One is a magnificent film from Denis Villeneuve. Featuring an incredible ensemble cast, rapturous visuals, astonishing set pieces, its emphasis on themes of politics and colonialism, and Hans Zimmer’s phenomenal score. The film is definitely a grand piece of art that doesn’t just live up to the vision of Frank Herbert but also be a sci-fi film that does a lot more than just be action in favor of characters, motivations, and the stakes. In the end, Dune-Part One is an outstanding film from Denis Villeneuve.
Denis Villeneuve Films: August 32nd on Earth - Maelstrom - Polytechnique - Incendies - Prisoners (2013 film) - Enemy (2013 film) - Sicario - Arrival (2016 film) - Blade Runner 2049
Related: Dune (1984 film) - Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #68: Denis Villeneuve
© thevoid99 2021