The prime reason that drew me to watch this film was the bizarre premise it possesses (the film is #9 on our Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2018): a mute Amish man —who is also a bartender— finds himself going after gangsters in a futuristic Berlin while he searches for his missing girlfriend…wow. The psychedelic cinematography and interesting ensemble were also intriguing, as this Netflix original film definitely stands out from the rest released as of late. Unfortunately, the premise ended up drowning inside a convoluted story that fell vastly short to the visual imagery that Mute offered.
The film starts off with a bang, as the main character is introduced through a flashback in an abrupt manner. Right away, we learn the reason behind his lack of speech, and the setting of the beginning fiercely contrasts with the scenario in the present: a countryside Amish community disappears after the flashback to give place a Blade Runner-style urban backdrop. The visual setup is presented right away and enriched with details throughout the whole film —perhaps, the only aspect of the movie that does not fail in its development.
Narrative-wise, the piece leaves a lot to be wished for. As mentioned above, the premise stands out on its own, but the way it was executed can be only described as poorly and unorganized. The relationship between Leo, the main character played by Alexander Skarsgard, and his girlfriend Naadirah, played by newcomer Seyneb Saleh, is barely developed. The relationship comes off as shallow, when it is supposed to be a great romance for our main character.
Furthermore, the film just continue presenting more plot points when they are not really needed. Instead of contributing to the story, they actually take away from the main focus without really contributing to anything. Cactus Bill and Duck, played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux respectively, are introduced within their own story-line as surgeons who are up to no good, apparently. After some twists regarding their relationship with each other and the plot as a whole, the viewer can only end up wondering why so much time was spent with them if their part only amassed narrative disappointment.
Overall confusing, Mute tries to be a clever noir science fiction film, but never gets there. Duncan Jones, who has previously directed the lauded science fiction film Moon, presented a step in the wrong direction, after having a great start with the previous production that starred Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. His vision is far from mediocre, though —he has this ambitious idea of developing a trilogy of science fiction films set in the same universe, and Mute is meant to be the second chapter of his no noir sci-fi saga. Hopefully, his trilogy is able to wrap up in a high note, leaving Mute as that sequel everyone prefers to ignore.
“Unfortunately, the premise ended up drowning inside a convoluted story that fell vastly short to the visual imagery that Mute offered.”
To end on a positive note, one aspect that does deserve praise is Clint Mansell’s score. The English musician, who has previously worked on pieces for films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan was vital to the film immersion experience, and his work deserves to be at least listened, as the visual experience is not necessary to accompany his score.