For his third film as director, J.D. Dillard adapts the 2017 biography Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by author Adam Makos. The film shortens the title to Devotion and introduces audiences to the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) during the Korean War.
Dune is one of 2021’s best
Author Frank Herbert’s legendary 1965 science fiction novel receives a second big-screen adaption in Warner Bros. Pictures Dune. Visionary director Denis Villeneuve helms the film and collaborates on the screenplay with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. In the distant future, we meet Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). Paul is a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding.
Lately, Paul has been having dreams of the mysterious Chani (Zendaya). Then a series of events lead Paul to travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.
Due to the complexity of the source material, many see Dune as an “unfilmable” work to adapt from novel to film or other visual media. I vaguely remember seeing David Lynch’s 1984 as a kid and asking my mom what it was about, who told me it had something to do with a battle over spice and sandworms. Before seeing the latest version, I made a trip to my local Alamo Drafthouse to see director David Lynch’s 1984 take on the film.
While I found the film to be ok at forty years old, I fully understand why the response was negative. Lynch attempted to cram a 412-page novel into a two-hour movie. As online magazine Wired recently noted, the novel Dune has four appendices and a glossary of its own gibberish. Its action takes place on two planets, one of which is a desert overrun by worms the size of airport runways. Many influential people die or try to kill each other, and they are all tethered to about eight entangled subplots.
Any filmmaker taking on a project this vast has a huge undertaking. Thankfully, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve knows this and makes the wise choice to cover the first half of the novel. Villeneuve has been on my radar since 2013’s Enemy, with each subsequent directing effort equaling or coming close to his previous film.
Dune is his tenth film as a director and his most passionate one yet. From the opening visual of Zendaya’s Chani and her voiceover, it is clear that the director and writers wanted to appease both new fans and source material fans. That said, while Dune is streaming on HBO MAX, I highly encourage you to see this film on the big screen to experience its visual wonder.
While I never read the novel, the plot of Dune was easy to follow and throughout the 2 ½ hours run time, I was engaged in the story. Going into the film, I did not know that some of my favorites, such as Dave Baustia and Denis Villeneuve, would have small parts, which will expand in the sequel.
Thankfully, that leaves a cast of Award-Nominated actors such as Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, and Stellan Skarsgård to carry the film. All actors bring their A-game to the film, and I always enjoy seeing Josh Brolin in action. Brolin has an excellent training duel scene with Timothée Chalamet that is still fresh in my mind. Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson have natural talent and could win an award doing a Hot Dog commercial.
As for our lead, Timothée Chalamet, he nails it. Since his breakthrough with Call Me by Your Name, Chalamet has built an impressive resume. His casting as Paul makes perfect sense as he brings the right amount of a boy becoming a man. I particularly liked the way he handles his action sequences, as he never comes off as showy, but as a novice, that you know will get better.
It would be a crime if I did not mention Jason Momoa’s character of Duncan Idaho, the sword master of House Atreides and one of Paul’s mentors. His character was the breakout for me, and I would not mind a spin-off focusing on him. If I had one complaint about Dune, it is that we must wait for Part 2. Although, kudos to Denis Villeneuve for where he ends the film with its stopping points.
With stunning visuals, an impressive cast, and a respectable homage to the source, Dune is easily one of 2021’s best movies and highly recommended.
Final Grade: A-
Dune opens in theaters tonight and will stream on HBO MAX until 22 November
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