Mute  (2018)

Duncan Jones has directed three movies before "Mute"; the first one, I liked a lot; the second one was pretty good; the third one, I skipped. I was looking forward to his fourth once I heard he was going away from the video game adaptation and back to his science fiction roots. Adding in a cast of people I liked gave me high hopes.

In the distant-ish future of Berlin, Leo is an Amish man who, due to a childhood injury, is totally unable to speak. He has a job as a bartender at a nightclub, and is dating (and in love with) one of the cocktail waitresses, Naadirah. Naadirah has a vaguely mysterious past, but things go crazy when she disappears from Leo's apartment after he fights a customer at the club who tried to get too handsy with her.

Leo searches all over the city, running into club owners, pimps and whores, the Russian mob, underground surgeons, AWOL soldiers, and more. Each piece of the puzzle is slowly put together, and even with a few subplots that distracted me, things came together in a satisfying way.

The movie definitely takes a lot of its look from Blade Runner - a neon dystopia, the bright lights contrasting the filth of the lifestyle, flying cars and rain-soaked streets. Much of the future fashions are a bit cliched, sort of a Hunger Games District 1 glam; you also have the stoic plainness of the Amish Leo, and some funky American counter-culture from Paul Rudd's character Cactus Bill.

I really liked Jones' first movie "Moon". "Mute" contains some background references to "Moon" which I enjoyed, and it definitely continued to push the "realistic" bounds of "realistic science fiction"..."Moon" was really bare-bones, with Sam Rockwell basically running around alone on the moon. "Source Code" pushed things further into fantasy, and now "Mute" has created a full world for the director and actors to dive into. Alexander Skarsgard took on the difficult task of acting without speaking, and does a good job of emoting the anger and despair with just his expressions. Seyneb Saleh was nice to look at as Naadirah, but I felt underwhelmed by her acting. Giving Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux a bromance basically made me grow ovaries and have them explode. They both play characters outside their normal style, but manage to still bring their natural Paul Rudd-ness and Justin Theroux-ness, but somehow do so without distracting me from the movie.

Duncan Jones said he rewrote the movie many times, because original drafts ended up being full of "too much personal stuff"...the end result still included artwork by Duncan's father, David Bowie, painted during his time in Berlin. The theme Jones mentions about parenthood is a strong undercurrent, and the film is dedicated to his father and nanny.

 

 [Celluloid Hero] gives "Mute" a 7 out of 10.

 

 

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