Review - 'Mute'
Upon watching Mute, one film and its director kept popping back into my mind: Chappie directed by Neill Blomkamp. I didn't correlate these movies and their directors because their films are similar, more because both films were passion projects for their directors, and both of them have now ended up being disappointing failures that didn't live up to my high expectations.
Berlin, 40 years in the future. Mute tells the story of Leo (Alexander Skarsgard), a man that lost his voice in a violent accident when he was a child. Leo works at a bar in Berlin with his girlfriend, NaaDirah (Seyneb Saleh) who is hesitant to reveal who she truly is to him. When she disappears, Leo is determined to find her and get answers.
It pains me to say this because I generally enjoy Duncan Jones work and respect him as a film maker, but this movie was an absolute chore to get through. Mute's most fatal flaws are that it just doesn't have a compelling story and I never really cared about a single one of the characters we go on this journey with. The film is very slow to establish itself, hoping that its Blade Runner-inspired world will do the talking for it. It doesn't, I mean, maybe it would have had we not already been swept away by Blade Runner 2049 mere months prior. When the story does start to move more quickly than its initial glacial pace, it still isn't engaging. This is one of those films that I could have turned off mid-way through and not given a second thought about how it might have concluded.
The performances in Mute range from poor, to decent and finally to good-but-detestable. I'll explain that last one later. The film's lead, Alexander Skarsgard, is unfortunately a bit of a nothing-biscuit in this film. There are times where he emotes in a convincing way and seems vaguely human, but mostly, he's as wooden as a 2-by-4. Then we have his girlfriend Naadirah played by Seyneb Saleh, she might not be a bad actor, but boy were some of her lines clunky and poorly written. Now we come to the good-but-detestables: Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux who play two surgeons named Cactus Bill and Duck, respectively. It takes skill to make Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux unlikable, and Duncan Jones accomplishes that here. So there's something I guess. That said, every time either of these characters were onscreen I just felt like turning this film off, these guys are nasty and intensely unlikable and their actions consistently made me uneasy. I'm sure that was the intention, but it sure didn't help ease my viewing experience.
Not everything about Mute is bad news, though. The production values for this film are high. While Mute does ape the style of Blade Runner, it still looks competent and there is some inventive camera-work on display, even though I feel like this film didn't really need to be a cyberpunk for Duncan Jones to tell the story he wanted to tell. Then there's Clint Mansell's score, who surprisingly also scored the cyberpunk-y Ghost in the Shell last year. It's a good score, even if its not quite as good as the one he did for Ghost in the Shell.
Aesthetically, Mute is competent, but just about every other aspect of this film seemed like it was dead-set on stifling my enjoyment. In addition to this, I couldn't glean any meaningful message by the end of this film; it's dark and depraved and seems soulless. While there are far worse films out there, I don't recommend Mute to anyone, not even the most die-hard of sci-fi fans.