Timothee Chalamet Rebecca Ferguson Oscar Isaac Zendaya Jason Momoa
Stellen Skarsgard Stephen McKinley Henderson Javier Bardem Chen Chang
I would say it’s just glorious to be enthralled by the sensory extravaganza that Dune presents. The vistas and patterns of shimmering sand in the desert (Greig Fraser, Cinematographer), the elegance of the aircraft, the fascinating production design (Patrice Vermette), the eeriness of the music (Hans Zimmer) and sound effects—Denis Villeneuve and his collaborating filmmakers mesh together so well, the film is like a living tapestry that is spellbinding.
And the cast! Beginning with Chalamet as an ideal Paul Atreides, a duke’s son trained in a comprehensive framework of arms, politics and government, and prophecy. His eyes, his bearing, his obvious sincerity all convey a special person—let alone his handsome looks. All the casting choices are spot on. We get Oscar Isaac as Paul’s father and Duke of Atreides cynically awarded a planet in the Imperium by jealous calculating emperor Shaddam. He portrays nobility and a genuine sense of fairness in the universe. Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother sees that he is physically/mentally/emotionally prepared for an expected destiny. She demonstrates the power of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood which is intimidating physically and emotionally and keenly perceptive. Jason Momoa as Duncan the Atreides’ swordmaster, Josh Brolin as the Atreides’ weapons expert, and Javier Bardem as Stilgar the leader of the desert Fremen all demonstrate their characters’ particular skills and their mentoring attachment to Paul. Sharon Duncan-Brewster as the ecology-aware Dr. Liet Kynes; and Charlotte Rampling as the Reverend Mother Mohiam, from the exclusive sisterhood Bene Gesserit aptly fill out a stellar cast. In a departure from the book, Dr. Kynes (played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster) is a female, presumably a nod to contemporary times.
For those not familiar with the story, the universe consists of a number of planets, each with its own head. Over all is the emperor of the conglomerate, the Imperium, which has a huge army, the Sardauker. In the mix is the planet Arrakis, which is extremely valuable for its “spice” found in the sands of its desert. This spice, mélange, promotes youth, vitality, and lifespan, is a valuable resource. Planet Harkonnen has held its sway on Arrakis for years, exploiting the crop of spice for its own benefit, along with cooking the books to favor itself. Now, the emperor is not only worried about his revenue from this planet, but he is jealous of Lord Atreides of Caladan.
Thinking he will win by pitting the two against each other, the emperor appoints Lord Atreides to the Arrakis planet in direct opposition to Harkonnen. (The fact that he will eventually favor Harkonnen over Atreides is part of the story.) But he hasn’t taken into account the Atreides’ humanitarian bent. The Duke is committed to good governance, which includes diplomatically engaging the Fremen, masters of the desert, whom the Harkonnens have mistreated.
This account of Dune ends with Paul and his mother Lady Jessica being rescued from the desert by the Fremen who are wondering if he is their messiah. This is Villeneuve’s Part One; Part Two is planned for a later release.
Thrill to the story of interplanetary competition mixed in with mystical realism in an epochal battle for the good.