Duncan Jones directs Mute, an almost crime noir drama set in a futuristic Berlin, following a mute bartender who after falling for a girl, desperately tries to find her after she disappears. The film stars Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh and Robert Sheehan.
Duncan Jones once again confuses audiences with a film that is completely different to his last cinematic outing (Warcraft) in every single way but this is a film connected directly to a previous film of his (Moon) and we do return to a futuristic sci-fi setting for the story, set in Berlin in the maybe not too distant future, we do have robots and advanced medical equipment but no flying cars or androids a la Bladerunner. And in doing this, the world does feel a bit strange but also a bit familiar, the setting really isn’t the main point here either and though the world may have interesting aspects to it to be explored, you’ll be disappointed if you came into the film wanting answers to questions about lore or world building from the film.
This is a very small character and story driven film, centred on mute Amish bartender Leo (Skarsgard) who has fallen for Naadirah (saleh), a sex worker in Berlin who knows she can’t really be with him and thus you have a set up for a mismatched love story, the film has a bit of an odd structure to it, being half about Leo and his search for Naadirah in a pseudo crime noir style – he can fight but he’s no detective, though that doesn’t stop it. And half about two American ex pats in Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux) who is almost unrecognisable in an odd blonde wig, doing odd jobs for the mob and just living their life, for about 2/3 of the film you may wonder who they are and what relevance they even have to the main story and I think this short coming is a flaw of some poor story telling. There are a few plot threads running simultaneously but not seeing them come together until significantly later in the story is a bit frustrating, that being said Rudd and Theroux are brilliant in the film, over the top in their unique ways, with Ducks in particular becoming central to a particularly dark and morbid storyline which I saw as a bit pointless to the overall story, especially in his relation to Leo who he doesn’t seem to know at all.
That being said, the setting is… interesting I suppose and the performances are good but a meandering story that takes far too long to really come to any meaningful position is what really holds the film back, with some bad storytelling to boot – we really could have used some exposition in this case! And Leo being mute which was done for dramatic effect I presume, doesn’t really add much to the story either other than making Skarsgard act that extra bit harder which he doesn’t need to – as he’s a fine actor but that’s my two cents.
I really like Duncan Jones as a filmmaker and all of his previous work but Mute feels like a bit of a misstep, a strange and strangely told story with some merit to it, at its core being a tragic love story that is just needlessly convoluted, did it even need the sci-fi setting at all? Why is Leo Amish again? Well, yeah that was weird.
. Some plot points are confusing, bad storytelling
. Scsi-fi setting seems superfluous
. Has some good performances