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Denis Villeneuve

Dune: Part Two – Dennis Villeneuve (2024)

I wonder how it comes that this film is so popular (hyped). I do not remember that part one played every hour in every cinema and that millions of people watched it in the first weekend. What is more, apparently Villeneuve takes it for granted that you just saw part 1 (of three years ago) when you watch “part two”.

Part Two just starts where the first movie left off. There is no ‘previously’ no flashbacks, no explanation. You are supposed to know who is who and what is what.

Paul Atreidis is living on the planet Arakis, but not yet the leader he is to become. With the “Fremen” (or actually: half of them) he tries to fight off the Harkonen who want their economically interesting planet back.

Just like the first part Part Two is extremely bombastic, dramatic and in many respects overdone. It is again a great looking film, but it really looks like one episode in a series. It just stops after about three hours. How many more parts is Villeneuve going to use to tell this tiny story in the “Dune” series of books?

For an overview of the story, it helps if you watch the (more interesting in my opinion David Lynch version of the film first.

Prisoners – Denis Villeneuve (2013)

I am afraid that once more I have to disagree with the majority on a Villeneuve. “Prisoners” currently has an 8.1 rating on I have to say: not by far…

In a small American town two little girls disappear while playing outside when their parents have a mutual Thanksgiving. After some searching the police is called in and soon there is a suspect. Detective Loki is not 100% sure, but his boss even less so, so the suspect is set free.

One of the fathers sets out for his own investigations, but he is a wee bit too fanatical.

Of course there have to be some new suspects every now and then (one practically drops out of the sky and disappears again) all to work towards the grand reveal which is a bit… uninteresting.

The film has an alright atmosphere, a bit of a thriller/drama, but I really cannot say that it is very good.

Dune (part 1) – Denis Villeneuve (2021)

Only during the opening credits did I learn that Villeneuve spread the story over multiple films. Of course the film is based on the same novel as David Lynch’s 1984 classic. I see that my review is quite critical and we know that Lynch is not too positive about his version as he could not make it the way he wanted it, but I actually do like Lynch’s version. Maybe even more so than Villeneuve’s!

It takes a while before Villeneuve’s film starts to get elements that I recognise from Lynch’s film. With more length, Villeneuve can incorporate more elements of the book.

You may know the story. There is a desert planet called Arakis that used to be governed fiercely by the “house Harkonnen”. Then suddenly the Harkonnen are removed and government is given to “house Atreides”. We mostly follow the son of that family who – together with his family – travels to the “dune”.

The desert contains a “spice” that has several benefits, mostly economical, so a fierce battle unfolds in which the Harkonnen try to take back the planet from the Atreides while Paul proves to be some sort of Messiah for the local people.

“Dune” reminds me a bit too much of Villeneuve’s “Arrival“. A pomp scifi with bombastic music, overdone dramatics, American patriotism (but worked into the story) and drama-inducing imaginary. It is all quite overwhelming, but to my mind also quite overdone.

“Dune” remains an enjoyable movie if you can stand the ‘genre’. I have no idea when the second part is due and if I again want to see it on the big screen, but I am planning on seeing it when time comes.

Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Either I do not remember much from the 1982 original of this film or Villeneuve made his own take with this revamp. I expected a hip, Hollywood, scifi spectacle, but “2049” has little to do with that.

We find ourselves in a dystopian future in which K (Ryan Gosling) is some sort of policeman and in which most (all?) of earth’s inhabitants appear to be robots of some sort. In the first scenes K kills a man, but this action proves to unearth some mysteries that need to be investigated and done away with.

Gosling finds himself in a mix between “Drive” and “Mad Max“, a very slow, dark, minimalistic and gloomy science fiction film. The dark and rumbling soundtrack is a bit overdone here and there, but usually very moody. The story is not very complex, but enough to add some interesting notions on.

Indeed, this is actually a wonderfully dark film.

Arrival – Denis Villeneuve (2016)

Villeneuve took at a stab at the sci-fi genre and wonderfully too! “Arrival” is an ‘alien encounter’ film rather than a ‘people in space’ one.

Twelve UFOs ‘land’ at twelve places at the earth. People are actually allowed on board to try to communicate with the aliens. Every country that ‘has’ a UFO tries to decipher the aliens’ language. Of course we follow the American encounter.

The story is well-written and at the end actually proves to be very complex as well. The film itself is very well-written too. The first time the viewer gets on the UFO together with scholars, scientists and military people is great. An interesting puzzle unfolds. The only thing I liked less is the drama at the end.

Sicario * Denis Villeneuve (2015)

For some reason the name of the director connects to interesting films in my head. When I see my reviews of two other Villeneuve titles, I wonder why. Do I mix him up with another director with a French name?

With “Sicario” the expectations were lived up though! Contrary to the two other films, which were dramas, “Sicario” is a dark, gloomy and raw crime action. The young FBI agent Kate Macer is asked for a special team hunting a Mexican drugs cartel. She tumbles into a world were laws and especially violence are not what she was used to and that is quite something after the opening scene.

The film has an almost constant gloomy atmosphere with the suggestion of an extremely violent outburst. The rumbling soundtrack sure adds a lot to the atmosphere, as do the shots of the desolate landscape between the USA and Mexico.

Indeed, “Sicario” is a very descent crime film.

Enemy * Denis Villeneuve (2013)

The cover somewhat suggests a “Being John Malkovich”-like film (after which many similar films have been made) which is in way true, but “Enemy” is in no way as interesting.

History teacher Adam watches a film in which an actor plays that looks exactly like him. He sets out to find this actor and finds him living nearby. Adam is an annoyingly nervous person, even more so when he meets his ‘doppelgänger’. The film does not make clear, and Adam probably does not know himself, why he wants to meet his double, but the events that follow certainly are not what he hoped for. The story is already not too appealing, but the ‘explaining’ last scene is pretty silly. Not that the film is awfull, it is not boring or anything, but it is just a not too convincing drama.

Incendies * Denis Villeneuve (2010)

  • drama

I do not remember how this film came on my to-see list. It is not really my preferred genre; drama. A pretty heavy drama too, but a painfully good film.

A pair of Canadian twins’ mother dies and on reading her will, their mother asks her children to find their father and brother and give them letters that she wrote. The son, obviously annoyed by his mother’s upbringing, declines, the daughter sets out to the Middle East (Syria I think) to find her mother’s roots and hence her father and her brother. This proves to be quite an ordeal in a land where Christians and Muslims lived in peace until the time of the mother when a dirty and bloody war was fought.

The film shows the story of the mother and how she first became a disgrace to her family and then ended up in prison. The daughter slowly finds the information she is looking for and after her brother came over to join her search, the story makes an awfull circle.

The film shows the Middle Eastern wars and effects of it on a very personal level. The extraordinary harsch lives of people living in the desert. Unfortunately the film is as actual today at it was in the time the mother from this film lived.