Dune – A Movie Review

Dune never interested me all that much until when, years ago, I heard Denis Villeneuve planned to release his interpretation of the seminal work. As a big fan of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, I knew Villeneuve would do something very special as he put his unique stamp on the mythology.

I immediately set out to read the book before the movie’s release. Because the pandemic kept pushing the movie down the calendar, I managed to finish it with plenty of time to spare, though I wouldn’t consider it an easy read. You can see my thoughts about the book HERE.

Dune released both in theaters and on HBO Max on October 21st. I sat down around 9:30 that Thursday night intending to just watch thirty minutes or so, enough to get a first impression of the film.

I couldn’t turn it off. I was up until 12:30 a.m., on a work night, dog tired, watching Dune, and couldn’t turn it off.

That probably speaks volumes in and of itself, but I’ll share a few thoughts.

As expected, Dune is visually magnificent and utilizes a striking ambiance. It hit all the right chords and delivered the essence of the book. Well, most of the book. Half of the book? More on that to come.

Dune is also filled with true stars. Consider some of these names: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, and Zendaya. These are full-fledged movie stars, each and every one.

I found the movie riveting, obviously, but as I watched it I found myself wondering: “Does this thing make any sense at all to anyone who hasn’t read the book?” I’ve since spoken with a few friends who really enjoyed the movie, even loved it in some cases, and haven’t read the book and weren’t familiar with the premise. I think that’s a good sign! As noted before, it definitely hit the high notes of the source material, but many of the more nuanced items were, as one would expect, left out.

I love that a book originally published in 1965 can still feel fresh and captivate audiences in 2021.

Chalamet, who plays the story’s protagonist named Paul, owned his role. Paul is a complex character, and though the movie doesn’t quite make it to his most controversial moments, it absolutely lays the groundwork for his epic quest to come. Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, Lady Jessica, and I feel that she nailed the loving, dangerous woman that she is. Oscar Isaac proved he can command a screen yet again when given a meaty character to work with, and, as Paul’s father Duke Leto, he does just that. Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin respectively play Duncan and Gurney, mentors to Paul even while being vastly different men. Both actors were perfectly suited for these roles. Unfortunately, Zendya, Dave Bautista, and Javier Bardem were not given much to do … yet. If a second installment is indeed in the cards, you’ll see what interesting characters these three play, particularly Zendaya, who is Chani, the yin to Paul’s yang. Zendaya is a huge star in the making. She and Chalamet, if given a chance, are going to make Dune even more special than it already is.

Which, it must be said, leads me to my final point. Even at nearly three hours, Dune only covers about half of the book. If it feels as though the movie ends on a cliffhanger, well, it very much does. If it feels as though Dune spent a lot of time establishing characters, environments, technology, and religions … it does. If Dune: Part 2 is anything like the book, though, you are in for a very exciting experience.

Even if you’ve never read the book and even if you normally don’t care for science fiction, I urge you to give Dune a chance. It looks amazing, has an interesting take on established archetypes, utilizes themes that are very relevant to today’s world, features some very good acting, and is simply flat-out cool.

Triple Frontier – A Movie Review

Triple Frontier is an action-packed film that kept me both anxious and very entertained.

The premise is that Oscar Isaac’s character is working as a security contractor who trains foreign armies and police.  He’s been after a particular drug lord for quite a while, but can never quite pin him down.  Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal play men who once belonged to Isaac’s unit, a band of brothers.  They are all retired from the military, and they are all down on their luck with little to show for their service.

Isaac’s character propositions them to help  him take down this drug lord by amassing intelligence regarding his stronghold.  They can each make a large sum of money doing so.  What is initially supposed to be a simple recon mission turns into a flat-out burglary.  From there, the unit must try to escape the drug lord’s men through the jungles of Columbia, through Peru, and over the Andes Mountains while carrying very, very large amounts of cash.

While Triple Frontier kept me on the edge of my seat throughout due to action and an ever-present danger, I also thought it said something provocative about soldiers who give everything to their country with nothing to show for it.  Who can blame these warriors for taking desperate actions to try to help their families, their friends, and even themselves?  The ethical dilemmas presented in this movie will make quite an impact, I assure you.

Furthermore, I found the locations beautiful and lush.  Most of the film was shot in Hawaii and Colombia, so these jungles and mountains are authentic.  The scope of the film is magnificent with some truly breathtaking scenes.

Best of all, though, was the cast.  I actually felt like these men had a bond between them.  Affleck, Hedlund, and Hunnam were fine, but Pascal and Isaac were the heart and soul of this movie.  Oscar Isaac gets better with every movie I see him in, and Triple Frontier is no exception.

Though very violent and laden with profanities, Triple Frontier kept me engaged and entertained from start to finish.  If you’re looking for an action movie with some authentic emotional beats, this one won’t disappoint.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE

Operation Finale – A Movie Review

Operation Finale is a movie based on historical fact.  It chronicles a team of Israeli agents sent to Buenos Aires in Argentina to capture the Nazi war criminal named Adolf Eichmann.  As records show, they were delayed several days after securing Eichmann and had to keep him in a safe house as they awaited extraction.

Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, an actual member of the team that captured Eichmann.  He is credited with wrestling Eichmann to the ground when the murderer sensed something amiss.  Ben Kingsley plays the high-ranking Nazi official who organized the transportation of Jews to their deaths who, along with several Nazis, took refuge in South America.

My wife loves historical movies, so we went together to see this.  She enjoyed it even more than I did, and that’s saying something because I liked it quite a bit.

We agreed that for such a complicated story, it was surprisingly easy to follow.  The editing felt very smooth and the story unfolded fluidly.  Though I can’t say I totally remember every character’s name–there were several–each appeared visually unique and had a distinct personality which made them simple to recognize.

In fact, overall all, we thought the acting was superb, particularly in regards to Ben Kingsley.  Kingsley played Eichmann as a regular man.  He did not portray him as a two-dimensional villain, nor did he deliver a pompous, raging despot.  Fifteen years after the war’s end, Kinglsey characterizes Eichmann as quiet, reserved, even gentle.  But every once in a while, you see a flash, a brief glimpse, of the conniving, murderous Nazi hiding behind those eyes.

The filmmakers utilized another shrewd storytelling technique as they revealed snippets of Eichmann’s past, little by little, in short, potent vignettes.  Those scenes eventually piece together a vision of Eichmann that is horrifying and in stark contrast to the man being held prisoner at the safe house.  I specifically loved the image of him annoyingly wiping ink off of his cuff during a Nazi meeting.  He wore the same expression upon his face as he wiped something entirely different from his uniform near a death pit.  These little touches were remarkably effective at conveying character.

Make no mistake, however, even though Eichmann seems powerless while in custody, he is not.  He’s engaged in subtle, almost imperceptible, mental warfare with his captors, and the audience is led to believe he might just outlast them all.

Though I liked the movie very much, I’m the first to admit it’s a little on the slow side.  This disciplined pacing, though, absolutely illustrates the tension in the safe house as they waited nearly ten days to take Eichmann to Israel.  During this holdover, everyone is beginning to climb the walls, and it’s Oscar Isaac’s Peter Malkin who must keep his head for the sake of them all.

Truthfully, I entered the theater believing most of the movie would occur in the courtroom.  I thought we were going to see quite a bit of Eichmann’s trial.  This did not prove to be the case, and I felt totally fine with that.  We all generally know the outcome of that trial, but I knew virtually nothing about Eichmann’s detainment.  They were smart to zero in on the more enigmatic material of the story.

Operation Finale is a period film that appears authentic in terms of both era and locale.  It does not offer much in the way of special effects.  It’s fairly quiet.  But it’s also focused, deliberate, and well-constructed.  In the end, it was nice to experience a movie intent on delivering a captivating story with superb acting.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest books HERE!)