Mute movie review: Netflix's streak of disappointing sci-fi films continues with Alexander Skarsgård-starrer
Mute seems to have all the right ingredients — an impressive cast, futuristic noir visual palette, neon-lit visual effects. However, the film is let down by monotonous character dynamics, a dull and meandering investigation, bland usage of potentially cool production design and a truly mind-numbing big reveal.
It’s heartbreaking to compare Duncan Jones’ career with folks like Neil Blomkamp and Night Shyamalan in the late 2000s but there’s no denying that he’s fallen off the rails, hard. If his Warcraft adaptation seemed like a one-off, ruined due to the studio not letting him follow his vision, his new film Mute quashes that theory — because this is a bonafide disaster on every level. It’s also the third disappointing big Netflix sci-fi release after Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox.
Mute seems to have all the right ingredients — an impressive cast of Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux; a futuristic noir visual palette in the vein of Blade Runner; a mystery contained within the neon-lit visual effects. Nothing, unfortunately works here as the story is peppered with monotonous character dynamics, a dull and meandering investigation, bland usage of potentially cool production design and a truly mind-numbing big reveal.
The only interesting aspect of the film is the opening scene where we see a boy drowning in a water body with his throat leaking blood. It’s a haunting moment that sets a certain tone of horror and emotional turmoil that barely carries over to the rest of the film, which is set in a completely different landscape. Skarsgård plays the mute Leo, a bartender at a fururistic night club in Germany in love with Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) the waitress in the club. After an altercation with a couple of seedy people in the club, the girl goes missing and Leo begins an investigation.
Again, the plot screams that this should have been an entertaining movie about a missing girl and Jones could have taken the setup to any possible direction — this is a futuristic Germany after all. Frustratingly, the plot crawls from one dreary and predictably vulgar looking club to another, the mystery sagging at its seams. The film also keeps shifting to a subplot of a couple of American surgeons (Rudd and Theroux) which has all the energy and excitement of a snail running a marathon. It just makes no sense why Jones keeps us returning to the two surgeons for long and tedious swaths when the film should be about Leo’s journey — and the payoff in the third act involving these characters absolutely does not have the weight or an element of surprise that would justify this narrative choice.
The indulgent style of filmmaking is grating to say the least, this is particularly apparent in a long shot where we zoom through half a dozen levels of bowling alley levels, just so that Jones can showcase his visual style. When we’re utterly dis-invested in the characters, no amount of visual trickery can make us care. This is a red flag for Jones, who has made Moon and Source Code, two amazing films that broke through the mold of pre-existing sci-fi. It is clear that he needs more writing partners to collaborate with. All eyes are now on Alex Garland’s Annihilation to satisfy sci fi nerds who trawl the exciting waters of Netflix.
Mute is currently streaming on Netflix India. Watch the trailer here:
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