Mute – Movie Review – A bland and outright bad Sci-Fi story.

Netflix’s latest film release Mute comes from Duncan Jones, the director of two of the most well received Science Fiction films in the past ten years, Moon and Source Code. This is a film he has openly said he has wanted to make for years and thanks to Netflix he has been able to realise his vision, but is the film worth your time?

This film tells the story of Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) a mute bartender who begins to search for the whereabouts of his missing partner.

Duncan Jones hasn’t tried to hide the fact that this film is heavily influenced by Blade Runner and it is very clear to see. From the neon lit futuristic streets of Berlin, to the attempts at Neo-noir storytelling Duncan wears his main influence on his sleeve. Visually the film looks good, it’s vibrant and this rendition of Berlin feels like a lived in place. The director of photography Gary Shaw helped bring this world to life with his clean and sophisticated cinematography. Unfortunately almost every other aspect of the film is a tremendous failure.

The script is really bad and it fails on all fronts. The dialogue can be just about serviceable at times, but at it’s worst it’s written in such an amateur way where it doesn’t even feel realistic. Case and point, Noel Clarke and Robert Kazinsky. They both show up as two men in a club who are supposed to have an intimidating presence and pose a threat to Naadirah, portrayed by Seyneb Saleh who is girl that eventually goes missing. Their dialogue and the delivery of that dialogue is so outright poor that it felt embarrassing. Thankfully Noel and Rob don’t have a big part to play in this story, so I didn’t have to suffer whilst watching their performances for too long. I thought Leo, the lead character of the story was terribly written. He is a mute so obviously he has no dialogue, but everything to do with him felt sporadic. How the character conducted himself from scene to scene, as well as his actions as the story progressed, gave me the impression that neither the Duncan or Alexander had a clear cut idea on how this character should be. In a story like this it’s essential to get the viewer to care for the protagonist and in this film I really didn’t care at all. When it comes to the narrative as a whole it simply lacks coherence and any sort sustained momentum, it was just a chore to watch and didn’t engage me at any point.

Alexander Skarsgård is forgettable and uninteresting in this lead role. There’s such a lack of development in the script that it ends up handicapping his performance. I don’t usually like to compare performances from completely different films, but think of everything Sally Hawkins was able to achieve whilst portraying a mute character in The Shape of Water. If you were to look at the opposite end of that spectrum, that’s where you’d find Alexander Skarsgård’s portrayal of a mute character in this film. I couldn’t connect with him emotionally, I didn’t understand the reasoning behind most of his actions through out the story, and in terms of whether I wanted to see him succeed with what he set out to do, I felt indifferent.

If there’s one performance that deserves some credit, that’s Paul Rudd’s portrayal of Cactus Bill. He’s an American surgeon who is trying to obtain a fake ID so he is able to leave Berlin and go back to America. This performance stands out only because I’ve never seen Paul portray a character like this before. It shows he has more range as an actor than the roles we usually see him in and if anything was keeping me mildly focused throughout this film, it was watching him. Justin Theroux portrays Duck who is Cactus Bill’s surgeon partner and best friend. Their peculiar chemistry and dynamic was definitely one of the strongest aspects of the film.

Tonally this film is very strange. Many times through out the film bizarre things occurred that were often played straight, but sometimes those moments were played for laughs and it never worked and just ended up being awkward. Also the pacing was all over the place and may be the most detrimental thing to the whole film aside from the script. The two hour run time was made to feel like three and there was no balance to the narrative structure. The film switches from Leo’s story to Cactus Bill and Duck’s story at inopportune moments that negatively impacted the overall flow. Lastly the musical score wasn’t memorable at all, when usually that’s a key component especially in this genre.

Overall Mute is a self indulgent directorial effort from Duncan Jones. The film lacks almost all the qualities that create an intriguing piece of Science Fiction. The script feels like it never went beyond it’s first draft, the lead role is poorly written and Alexander Skarsgård’s performance lacked depth and nuance. If you are looking for good Science Fiction entertainment to watch then watch Blade Runner 2049 or Netlix’s recent series, Altered Carbon.

⭐️

(1 Star Out of 5)

-T.Graham.

Mute – Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh, Noel Clarke and Rob Kazinsky.

Directed by Duncan Jones.

Now Streaming on Netflix.

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