Rebecca Ferguson

REVIEW: Dune (2021)

After his family, the House of Atreides, is called to take ownership of the planet Arrakis, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) becomes entangled in the war for the most valuable resource in the galaxy.

I read Dune by Frank Herbert a few years ago and saw the 1984 film version earlier this year so I did have some background knowledge going into this latest adaptation which is a good thing as Dune as a story is still incredibly dense with political intrigue and various people and families being important.

Dune is indeed absolutely stunning to look at. There’s no denying that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser have put together a fantastic looking film that really emphasises the scope of this story and makes all space craft look huge and tangible. The size of ships and rooms in cities may mean there’s a lot of space but the way things are shot and how the tension builds between some characters means that there’s often a claustrophobic feel to things too. Everything is so vast but as there’s so many things out there looking to harm Paul and those he cares about – huge sand worms and other Houses included – that it feels like there’s a threat from every corner.

The huge score from Hans Zimmer also contributes to this. It often compliments the shots on screen but some of the musical choices (I’m talking about the bagpipes) does feel a bit out of place. Though House of Atreides and Arrakis each have a distinct theme which is always nice to hear and it’s always nice to hear echoes of music throughout a film.

Dune has a huge and talented cast and some (Zendaya and Javier Bardem) are not in it much at all but they all do give great performances. Chalamet does a fine job being pretty much the centre of the whole thing but the two standouts were Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Lady Jessica and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, one of Duke Leto’s (Oscar Isaac) right-hand men. Ferguson captures the many sides of Jessica brilliantly. She’s composed and skilled while also barely containing her terror in one key scene. Before even Paul or you as the viewer know what he’s about to face you are on edge thanks to her performance. On the other end of the scale, you have Jason Momoa. While Ferguson is restrained, Momoa is exuberant in all situations, even battles. Every time Jason Momoa comes on screen it’s like the film got a shot of adrenalin. He is charismatic and charming and Momoa seems like he’s just having a great time being a space warrior who also manages to befriend everyone. Duncan Idaho is like a mentor to Paul and their dynamic is great and he’s such an affable character that it’s hard not to enjoy his presence whenever he’s on screen.

Most of the problems I have with Dune the film are the ones I had in Dune the book. It’s a dense story with a lot of political machinations and moving parts, and a lot of the characters aren’t afforded much depth. Chalamet does a fine job at Paul but the problem lies with the kind of character Paul is, he’s a prophesised saviour-type of character and so while there’s moments where you can see he’s smart or skilled, you never really get to see who he is as a person. It’s difficult to connect with a lot of the characters because there’s so much to take in about each of them, and with many of them it’s their sense of duty or legacy that comes across more than any kind of appealing personality.

Another problem with Dune is that it’s technically part one of the story. This would be less worrying if two things had happened. One, that the second film was confirmed to be happening – at the moment it seems to be dependent on how much money this one makes etc. And two, if this film actually felt like it had a beginning, middle and an end. This film just stops and in some ways a lot seems to have happened, and in others it doesn’t seems to have achieved anything at all. If anything, it feels like it stops hallway through the second act, so there has been a lot of setup but not a lot of resolution. Even films like The Lord of the Rings that are three distinct parts of one overall story each have three clear acts. With Dune you can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied.

There is no denying the impressive filmmaking that produced Dune. The special effects often look invisible making you believe in these worlds and the technology and people that live in them, and the whole atmosphere of the film is very distinct. The cast are great too but it’s the story structure and the story itself that doesn’t quite stand up to how the film is presented. Maybe if/when we get a Dune Part Two it’ll make this film go up in my estimations. For now, it looks great, but much like the novel I cared little for the story or most of the characters. 3/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team race against time to find some missing plutonium. As his team travel around the world on the tail of a terrorist organisation, they encounter old enemies and old friends and Ethan begins to doubt who he can trust.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the sixth film in a franchise that has been going for 22 years now. This is the first film in the series that has a returning director, Christopher McQuarrie, and it’s the first one that’s more of a direct sequel. Generally, the Mission: Impossible films can stand apart from one another as the only connecting features are Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell, and while you can certainly follow what’s happening in Fallout without seeing Rogue Nation, having that prior knowledge adds extra depth to characters and their motivations.

This is a franchise known from its stunts and in many ways, Fallout is one thrilling set piece after another. There’s electric fight sequences – the standout being Hunt and CIA Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) against a suspected terrorist in a bathroom – chase sequences that go from a car chase to a motorbike chase seamlessly, and there’s Tom Cruise jumping from buildings, dangling from helicopters and doing a HALO jump from 25,000 feet. These are all edge of your seat stuff. The action sequences and stunts are all shot well, there’s no shaky cam here, and knowing that it’s Tom Cruise who is putting himself in dangerous situations to entertain adds to the drama.

The stunts are spectacular and jaw-dropping, but thanks to the script and performances Fallout isn’t style over substance. There’s a lot of heart in this film, as Ethan is a man who has his regrets and his principles, mainly not wanting to trade the life of one person for the lives of millions. The relationships Ethan has formed over the course of this franchise are a major part of his motivations and the story as a whole.

The plot itself is full of twists and turns, some more obvious than others, with many characters having hidden agendas. Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns with her own mission while head of the CIA Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) doesn’t trust Hunt so puts Walker, a trained assassin, on his team. These combinations of characters, new and old, lead to some brilliant dialogue and chemistry. There is humour to be found from Fallout, and it’s not Simon Pegg’s Benji being comic relief. The humour here is very natural, coming from characters finding themselves in increasingly unpredictable situations, and the laughs never take away from the moments of tension or drama.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a tense, relentless action-packed thrill ride. It’s a technically brilliant film, from Lorne Balfe’s score to the beautiful cinematography from Rob Hardy. Fallout is a film where every aspect of it shines. 5/5.

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

When the IMF is dissolved, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on a mission to find out the truth about the Syndicate – an international rogue organisation as highly skilled as the IMF were. As he tries to track down a mystery figure, he encounters Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a woman with her own agenda. Ethan and the remnants of his team are unsure if they can trust her, but they may not have a choice as the Syndicate steps up their dangerous game.

Rogue Nation starts off with one of the biggest stunts in the series which is a thrill ride and shows you just what the Mission Impossible series is about. Unfortunately, the film can never really top that. It’s still a well-paced action film with some great fights, car chases and stunts and it’s also a lot of fun.

Rogue Nation has more of a spy thriller feel to it that the first Mission: Impossible had. It has shady agents with their own agendas, there’s the head of the CIA Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) breathing down Agents Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Dunn’s (Simon Pegg) necks, as they try and aid Ethan without being detected, and a villain who is more like a ghost that Ethan is constantly chasing after. Rogue Nation does a good job blending together the action spectacle and the espionage thriller aspects to make an entertaining and exciting film.

Isla Faust is a fascinating character. She’s not just the female-version of Ethan Hunt (which she so easily could’ve been), she has her own motivations, flaws and personality. She’s a skilled fighter, she’s smart and is the kind of character that you believe is a badass secret agent.

The final showdown in Rogue Nation is more of character-driven one rather than a spectacular action sequence. This makes it tense as it involves characters you’ve seen across a number of films now so have seen their relationship grow. 4/5.