Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh
After the painful pap served up by Warcraft, Duncan Jones could surely only go up with his next feature, Mute?
Proudly displaying its “Netflix Original” slogan, the movie seemingly began cursed – after the stinkers served up with Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox, Mute is the next in line to be ultimately disappointing and, really, not very good.
In the not-so-near future (around forty years forward), Berlin’s urbanscape has fallen foul of that ‘D’ word (no, not THAT D word) – the dystopian landscape. AWOL American military personnel are hunted and Amish guys make wired bartenders. Said bartender, Leo (Skarsgård), was rendered mute due to a childhood boating accident and spends his time serving drinks and observing the city around him with his girlfriend Naadirah (Saleh). In the bowels of the city, oddball surgeons Cactus Bill (Rudd) and Duck Teddington (Theroux) stitch up gangsters for money – Cactus being one of the American military personnel who’s gone AWOL and working for a way back home, for himself and his young daughter Josie (Mia-Sophie and Lea-Marie Bastin). When Naadirah disappears, all the characters path (somehow) lead to each other as the hunt for her begins.
With its unrelenting Blade Runner visuals, Mute aims for high-class neo-futurist noir but unfortunately ends up being a slow paced, overly long and slightly boring neo-futurist noir – when it wants to be. The tone switches back and forth so much that it’s almost as if two different directors worked on the movie. One part brooding hunt/investigation, the other part strange oddball comedy – Mute struggles to find an identity that feels genuine. At times it looks great – the Berlin streets and cityscape given some loving attention, though it also manages to look awfully…economical? Essentially the message here is that this movie is a bit of a mess.
But hey, the subtitles ensured we all knew the beaten goons ‘exclaimed’ in German.
Rudd and Theroux have fun together in their movie-conflicting roles, though Rudd lacks the required menace that a more intimidating actor would have brought to the role (the Brian Fantana-esque ‘tache doesn’t help). They really are at odds with the tone that the movie craves to aspire to, and the ill-judged and utterly pointless paedophilia subplot that is introduced surrounding them just adds another layer to the clashing narratives. Alexander Skarsgård is relegated to pulling slightly confused faces and left to emote with his expressions and he ends up being an uncharismatic lead – one that isn’t as kind as his girlfriend informs everyone. Dominic Monaghan also appears in one of the stranger cameos you’ll see for a few years.
There’s some stylish action (that’s a thing now) towards the end as Leo finally gets to let loose, as too does the movie as the finale roars into view – though when it does come, it’s full of false-endings and strange twists which rob the movie of a potentially strong ending. After the neo-futurist noir thriller movie does rear its head, it’s frustratingly washed away in favour of an unsatisfying and wholly un-gripping final duel. Visually, it’s both appealing and ugly at once. Certain shots and images look great and lend a vogueish vibe to proceedings, whereas others are just bland, well-worn streets which is itself a well-worn trope in these futuristic sci-fi movies – they all begin to look like each other very quickly.
The vintage-era movie posters produced by Netflix are damn cool, though.
Mute has apparently lived in Jones’s head for over a decade, and in its realised state, it probably should have stayed there. There’s a solid story to be found in Mute, but it’s suffocated by messy storylines, oddball characters and an unengaging plot. This is by no means a terrible movie, it’s just bland - it’s an ambitious movie that just doesn’t hit the heights that Jones aspired to and ends up being another big miss in Netflix’s canon.
February 23rd 2018