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As a fan of Duncan Jones' first couple SF movies, I had high expectations for Mute. Alas, they were dashed. It's all a bit of a mess. Another Blade Runner riff visually (between this and Altered Carbon, did Netflix get the cityscapes wholesale?) even if it's Berlin. The noir thriller concerns a missing girl and the mute Luddite who loves her and tries to find her. Structurally, it keeps forgetting him in favor of Paul Rudd's AWOL American soldier/doctor involved with underworld types. It takes entirely too long to show us what might tie these two protagonists together, the latter seeming like a distraction, but still more interesting than Alexander Skarsgård's non-verbal hero. And then there's the icky story thread about a pedophile, that really isn't proven necessary. The resolution is all kinds of slapdash. By the end, you might even wonder if Mute needed its sci-fi setting. Or for its protagonist to be mute (diversity aside). Even its links to Moon seem indulgent. What happened there?
It isn't anything like as unremittingly terrible as some reviews would have you believe, but it is a tonally strange film. I'm not sure it works as a whole, but bits do.
“Why the hell can’t he talk anyway?
It’s his mother’s fault.
He needs surgery.
It’s against her beliefs.”
Fortunately, Alexander Skarsgård isn’t by nature a voiceless person. It would have been a strange sight him appearing in “The Legend of Tarzan“. Swinging around with his mouth wide open. But no sound that cuts through the jungle so everyone could hear that well-known primal cry. In “Mute” he’s such a person with no sound leaving his mouth. And that because of a painful confrontation with the propeller of a motorboat (I suppose). What remains is a guy with the body of Tarzan and whose communication capacity is similar to that of Tarzan. Pretty flawed.
Judging by the futuristic scenery, you’d expect a decent science fiction. It’s situated in a fictional environment, namely future Berlin. The images remind you a lot of “Blade Runner“. You’ll see an enormous amount of neon lighting, holographic screens, futuristic vehicles flying around and a multitude of digital machines. Berlin is a screamy, noisy big city full of dark figures and practices. In this city, Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) is a barman of some nightclub where his blue-haired girlfriend Naadira (Seyneb Saleh) works as a waitress. A mysterious lady with a hitherto unspoken (no pun intended) secret. And the moment she wants to tell Leo about it, she suddenly disappears. And that’s when Leo hangs his barman outfit on the coat rack and transforms into a futuristic, taciturn Sherlock.
Are you expecting to see a “Blade Runner“-like SF with runaway androids or artificial intelligent machines that want to conquer future society, you’ll be slightly disappointed. The actual story in “Mute” is nothing more than a kind of detective story with some very bizarre twists and colorful figures. The two American doctors Leo is running into all the time, are a strange couple. Both their appearance (such as the walrus mustache of Paul Rudd and hawaiian shirts) and their names. Two doctors who listen to the names Cactus and Duck. Who made that up? And also these two surgeons work in an unhygienic looking cellar where they patch up members of the mafia (to obtain a passport to leave Germany). They look as if they’ve just worked in a field hospital during the Vietnam War. And lets not start about Duck’s (Justin Theroux) perverse characteristic.
To be honest, I found the moments these two weirdos turn up, the most interesting. On the one hand it felt rather comical. On the other hand, it was also quite controversial. It’s kind of obvious both storylines of the physicians and that of the searching Leo would meet somewhere ultimately. But in the end, this is actually the least interesting part of the entire film. It’s the framework and the way the movie is imaged that fascinates. The staging and characters form a colorful whole. The future prostitution network looks very otherworldly after seeing a person dressed up as a geisha (with smeared make-up), in a bizarre interior where two robots (with extreme-looking sex attributes) are displayed in an explicit way on the bed.
Still, I was wondering if all those different stylistic interventions were necessary. Why did the main character have to be mute? Not just so they could justify the movie title? And why that futuristic appearance? Granted, if you leave out that part, there isn’t much left to marvel at. And the most negative is the duration of the movie. That wouldn’t matter, if there were more fascinating elements to see. Even though a few wellknown names played in it (And let’s face it, Tarzan and Ant-man in one and the same film sounds awesome), I thought it was only a mediocre film. Perhaps Duncan Jones, son of the artistically gifted David Bowie, is stubbornly working on a quirky trajectory as a director. And just like his father, in the future this could bear fruit.
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