Mute is one of those frustrating movies that starts off well and little by little it starts to go off the rails in a really weird way. And after a two hour investment, it delivers a spectacularly underwhelming payoff.
A childhood accident left Leo mute. Thirty years later, he’s working as a bartender (Alexander Skarsgård) and in a loving relationship with waitress Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). Leo is also Amish and he’s so strict about it that he turns with his back to TVs in public settings. That’s an interesting character trait that probably should have been developed further.
Naadirah has a big secret, but before she can share it, she turns up missing. This sets Leo off on a long winding trail to track her down.
Director/co-writer Duncan Jones (Warcraft) puts together a very engaging and riveting mystery for half the two hour run time. One of the most annoying aspect of Mute is the movie could have been so much better if Jones stuck with what worked the entire time.
Jones is a talented filmmaker. He has some very creative and impressive shots. Jones’ look at the future features some really interesting concepts that expand onto current technological advancements and don’t seem that far off like drone food delivery. The cinematography by Gary Shaw and costumes by Ruth Myers is stunning and beautifully captures this futuristic world.
Leo’s story takes some very, very weird turns, but Mute is mostly aggravating for a tone clashing subplot involving surgeons Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd, Ant-Man) and Duck (Justin Theroux). It’s not entertaining. Bill is an obnoxious jerk, but it gets worse as Duck gets outed as a perv who gets off checking out and presumably fantasizing about underage girls.
For long periods of time, Leo gets sidelined to spend time with these two loathsome characters. There’s no real character development as we learn all we need very early on. They’re not nice guys and they treat everyone, including each other, crappy.
This is a very different role for Rudd, who typically is the super nice every man, but he makes for a surprisingly effective villain. Theroux continues to get completely lost in his roles and even with the blonde hairpiece he’s completely unrecognizable. Skarsgård has a tougher role since he can’t speak and he lacks the screen presence of say a Ryan Gosling who can pull off extended scenes with no dialogue.
Bill and Duck’s scenes play out like they’d be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino film, but they clash big time with the more Blade Runner style pacing of Leo’s scenes. It gives Mute this very inconsistent tone where each part is fighting to be the focus. Based on the fantastic score by Clint Mansell, Leo’s storyline was all that was needed here.
Mute also crumbles under its run time. The script by Jones and co-writer Michael Robert Johnson doesn’t have enough meat to warrant more than two hours. Rarely do good movies spend so much time on the supporting characters and their subplots at the expense of the main character. And the film’s dragged out ending definitely doesn’t make the time spent watching it feel worthwhile.
File Closed: Mute had an interesting premise and some intriguing ideas, but ultimately isn’t worth speaking up about.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein/Netflix