Another Netflix original, straight to stream. Duncan Jones‘ latest promised much and, to be fair, it looked fantastic. However there are too many issues throughout for me to enjoy this film.
A childhood accident combined with a strict Amish upbringing has left Leo unable to speak (due to refusing the required surgery). Fast forward to 2035 and he is working as a bartender in a Berlin club and dating one of the waitresses (Naadirah). After Leo has an altercation with a customer, Naadirah soon goes missing and this sets Leo on a mission to find her.
Starting with the positives means talking about the visuals. Neon-drenched neo-Berlin looks realistic and seedy, much more realistic looking than the city scenes in recent similarly futuristic-set films (GiTS certainly & BR2049 although looking great was still a lot more futuristic and less tangible than this depiction of the cityscape) so credit must go to that. The score also fitted in really well with the tone and the atmosphere set up by the location and the storyline, so another good thing to note.
However, good performances are few and far between I’m afraid. Alexander Skarsgård does a great job as Leo in his soundless search for his missing blue-haired partner, he is emotive and physical when required. However, compare this to the other high profile mute performance this year, Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, and it doesn’t come out favourably for poor Leo. Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) doesn’t have much to do and does well with what time she has on the screen. Paul Rudd has tied down a very specific type of role for himself. In almost every film he has been in recently he has been the kooky, funny, wise-cracking guy. So to cast him as Cactus Bill, an ex-military medic with a penchant for violence and drinking was a little misguided. His behaviour also doesn’t make much sense: devoted to his daughter and protective of her from his partner in crime, Duck, yet wildly abusive and belligerent to everyone else. Justin Theroux does well as the overly-friendly paediatrician best friend, but is ultimately too obvious.
The story is actually a great outline but unfortunately it doesn’t expand on it terribly well. The moment Naadirah goes missing is easily missed, it is more of a realisation that she isn’t there any more, so as the basis for the film that doesn’t bode well. The choice of what to include in this film whilst trying to carry the story through is also a bit strange. Too many off-shoots/too much emphasis with the Cactus Bill/Duck storyline detract from the main element of the story, Leo’s investigation, leaving it feeling disjointed and messy and, ultimately because of this, loses momentum.
Messy, lacking a decent flow and strange casting choices leave Mute nowhere in the stylised, futuristic, neo-noir film market.