Set forty years from now, a mute barman (Alexander Skarsgård) is pitted against Berlin’s criminal underworld as he searches for his missing girlfriend.
Directed by Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie, Mute is the long-awaited ‘spiritual sequel’ to his 2009 classic Moon. The film marks Jones’ return to more intimate and personal filmmaking, having spent the years since his debut making studio films Source Code and Warcraft. Unfortunately, Mute is a total train wreck. It makes little-to-no sense, is deathly dull and Skarsgård’s Leo is an entirely unengaging lead.
However, the film is shot beautifully by cinematographer Gary Shaw. Redolent of Blade Runner and (unsurprisingly) Bowie’s Berlin years, Mute is a visual treat. Nonetheless, narratively and tonally, it is incoherent. It jumps between locations and moods abruptly and never manages to gain momentum or develop a rhythm.
Luckily, the supporting cast offers some respite from Leo and his overwhelming boredom. Justin Theroux commits fully to a truly bizarre role and Paul Rudd is the film’s greatest asset. The two share Mute’s best scene, but not even their talents can save the film. Their sub-plot is just as confusing as everything else.
While it may benefit from a second watch, mainly to try to understand what the hell is going on, the film is yet another major disappointment from Netflix. Swiftly following in the footsteps of Bright’s critical mauling, the failure of Mute suggests that the streaming service is due a rethink about its cinematic output. If this run of dross continues, you wonder how many of the eighty films that they plan to release this year will attract viewers when the whole Friends box set is ready and waiting.
Mute is packed with slick metallic and neon visuals, but its storytelling is tinpot. Come for the aesthetic, stay for Paul Rudd, leave for everything else.