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Mute: An Interesting Miss by Director Duncan Jones

March 2, 2018

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Mute is worth watching because director/writer Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) took a massive swing and missed. I like that Jones went down swinging and didn’t strike out by watching pitches fly past him as he stood motionless. Mute is dripping with earnestness and I think it was hurt by the recent releases of the better Blade Runner: 2049 and Altered Carbon because it felt way too familiar when compared to them. I think this film was such a passion project for Jones (16-years in the making) that he never took a step back to reread the script or take any advice from Netflix or other producers/writers. Thus, we get a spiritual sequel to Moon that doesn’t successfully build a new world or tell an interesting story but you can still feel the love behind the camera.

Mute revolves around a mute bartender named Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) searching for his missing girlfriend in a futuristic Berlin. Due to his Amish upbringing and beliefs, he was never able to have surgery to fix his voice after a childhood injury. Thus, he lives a simple life that involves pouring drinks in a club owned by criminals which often gets him involved in altercations with people he shouldn’t be messing with. Things go south when his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) goes missing and it starts him on a noirish mission to find her and protect her from some very dangerous people.

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While Leo is searching for his girlfriend we are introduced to a pair of black market surgeons who specialize in fixing up mobsters who have been injured while on the job. Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux) are AWOL from the American army and they are hiding out in Berlin making a lot of money via illegal surgery and working a side-hustle involving performing cybernetic surgery on children. Bill is desperate to get out of Berlin with his daughter and is waiting for the papers to come through so he can get out of town. While he is waiting, he has to keep Duck in check because of Duck’s interest in young children (it gets weird) is getting too extreme and could risk both of their freedom.

Eventually, all the puzzle pieces fit together and it leads to an underwhelming conclusion that doesn’t justify the two-hours of setup. There could’ve been more detective work and it felt like the chess pieces moved around with no regard for a checkmate. Mute needed a tighter script or more time to establish the world, relationships and reason for villainy.  When the movie ended I hadn’t felt like I wasted two hours and I didn’t have the vitriolic response that many critics had. I just wished it featured the quality of Moon and Source Code and showcased the heart they had

The best parts of Mute are the committed performances of Skarsgard, Rudd, and Theroux. You can tell they trusted Jones and they went all-in with his weird little vision. I’d love to see more bad Rudd because with his recent Ant-Man bulking up and nice guy mannerisms he could totally be a solid villain, Also, Skarsgard went out on a limb and committed himself to his silent and unshowy performance which forced him to be totally different from his Tarzan, True Blood and Big Little Lies characters.

If you are a fan of Duncan Jones I recommend Mute because it needs all the support it can get and I still think he has a lot of quality stories to tell.

 

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