What to Watch Verdict
'Dune' is the epic cinematic experience we were all hoping for, with Villeneuve successfully taking us on the perilous journey through Arrakis.
Stunning visuals, best experienced on the big screen
Great use of an ensemble cast
Hans Zimmer score elevates the film
Those unfamiliar with the source material might struggle
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is back with another sci-fi epic, following on from the successes of 2016's Arrival and 2017's Blade Runner 2049. He's no stranger to stunning, transportive visuals and rich storylines, so fans of the genre were understandably excited when it was announced he was set to adapt Frank Hebert's Dune for the big screen.
The plot follows the Atreides family who has recently been invited to govern Arrakis, a dangerous planet that is rich in the “spice” known as melange, a coveted resource that can extend life and enhance consciousness, making it an incredibly valuable thing to be in possession of. The family is made up of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), and their son Paul (Timothée Chalamet), with the three leading this impressive cast list.
With any ensemble cast, there's an expectation that it will deliver, and it does. The performances in Dune are fantastic and there's depth to the characters, especially when it comes to Ferguson's Lady Jessica who is powerful yet has a tenderness and vulnerability to her, especially when it comes to her relationship with her son Paul. Ferguson and Chalamet are the standout performances as the film spends a lot of time focusing on them and their bond as they navigate what life on Arrakis means for them.
Also: How to watch 'Dune'
Timothée Chalamet is making waves in the industry right now having dazzled in Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch and is now gearing up to play Willy Wonka in a new adaptation. As the lead star of Dune he gives a captivating performance with more to come, as this is only the first part. His take on Paul is an incredibly convincing one, you can really feel his emotions and the pressure he's facing during the course of the film, especially when he begins having visions that would seriously affect his future.
Many of these visions include a woman named Chani (Zendaya), who lives on Arrakis. She's a mysterious figure who doesn't have a huge role in the film but it does set it up to see much more from her in the second part. Despite her lack of screen time, she has a powerful, intriguing presence. None of Chani's brief time on screen is wasted, and it seems like Zendaya and Chalamet will be major players in part two.
Dune is a massive film, it's 2 hours 35 minutes in length and feels that way, but that's no bad thing. Sufficient time was needed to properly explore the universe, and establish the lore that's at its heart. Having said that, audiences would benefit from reading the source material or at least doing some research into it, because it's an incredibly story-rich film and there's lots to sink your teeth into in order to fully appreciate the scale of it.
Bringing this film to life alongside Villeneuve was cinematographer Greig Fraser who has previously worked on Rogue One, The Mandalorian, and is set to work on new DC film The Batman, so if anyone knows how to do sci-fi and fantasy well, it's him, and it's recommended that you see his work on the biggest screen you can find.
Complementing Dune's scale and stunning visuals is a score composed by legendary musician Hans Zimmer, known for his work on Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean and the latest Bond flick No Time To Die to name but a few. Any project is in very safe hands with Zimmer, and the score certainly elevates the rest of the film, especially when it comes to its more dramatic moments.
Dune: Part Two is currently in pre-production, and after the grand conclusion of the first sci-fi fans will no doubt be desperate to see how Villeneuve continues the story. We might have a while to wait but if it's anywhere near as good as this installment, our patience will definitely be rewarded.
Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.
She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress!