Dune ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part One” is a towering cinematic masterpiece and completely worthy adaptation of the first half of Frank Herbert’s legendary 1965 sci-fi novel. It serves as the much needed bridge between artistically driven auteur cinema and big-budget blockbusters which is heavily dividing filmgoers everywhere today. The film relies far less on action, and plays out more like a political thriller in a sci-fi setting.

The film follows two powerful families in a feudal interstellar society; House Atreides and House Harkonnen. House Atreides and their efforts to liberate the Fremen people and bring peace to the desert planet of Arrakis, serve as a more compassionate and heroic counterpart to the brutally sadistic and imperialist House Harkonnen, who have built a brutal colonialist empire off the slavery, genocide and exploitation of the Fremen people and their lands. The film is told from the perspective of the main protagonist Paul Atreides (played excellently by up-and-coming star Timothée Chalamet), who finds him and his family thrust into a full-scale intergalactic war between the Fremen and the Harkonnens.

The film is an absolutely visually stunning spectacle, with gorgeous cinematography and luscious special effects transporting the viewer into a breathtaking and otherworldly experience. Viewing the film on a TV or streaming service simply does not do it justice. It is a film that must be seen on the big screen. Watching it in the cinema was simply a transcendent and otherworldly experience that I can only imagine people must have similarly felt back in 1968 with the release of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It is easily one of the most visually stunning and breathtaking films in recent years, if not of all time. All of this is aided by fantastic performances from its three leads, Timothèe Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Oscar Isaac as his noble father Duke Leto Atreides, and Rebecca Ferguson as his protective mother Lady Jessica. The three leads help to bring the immensely sympathetic characters from Frank Herbert’s original novel to life on celluloid, making their struggle against the vicious Harkonnen family all the more powerful to watch.

“Dune” is also a highly ambitious commentary on political power, and the systemic abuse and exploitation of indigenous people and their land. The Harkonnen’s imperialism and cruelty towards the Fremen people and their land could very easily parallel real-world historical colonialism such as Christopher Columbus’ genocide against Native Americans which America was built on, or the British Empire’s imperial genocide and exploitation of countless countries, namely Africa, India and Ireland. Frank Herbert himself, partially based his original 1965 novel on imperial exploitation of the Middle East for its oil and resources, something that has only grown in chilling relevance with the US invasions of Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 21st century. “Dune” also shows the ruthless intricacies of political power, and the eternal dirty game/cutthroat world of politics, with constant deceit, betrayal and lust for power overcoming the Atreides’ goals for positive intergalactic change in liberating the Fremen people and bringing peace to Arrakis, mirroring establishment politics’ constant efforts to sabotage those who pursue positive change in real-world politics.

Overall, “Dune” is a masterful science-fiction spectacle and one of the best commercial films released in years, with its thought-provoking insights on political power and indigenous exploitation, it’s excellent performances from its three leads, and it’s absolutely stunning and gorgeous visuals creating a modern big screen experience unlike any other. Go see this movie on the biggest screen possible. Bring on Part Two!

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