The film has some rather unimpressive visuals that hardly sweeten the blow from the scriptNETFLIX

If someone was to look at Mute without knowing anything about its director, they would probably assume that it represents the unfortunate third act in Netflix’s recent crop of high-concept, low-delivery sci-fi films that have been released in the past few months. That seems rather a pipe dream. The reality is that Mute is far duller and far more disappointing than either Bright or The Cloverfield Paradox, owing mostly to the promise of its director.

“He clearly got too close to it to see its problems objectively”

Duncan Jones has in the past shown himself to be a pretty great up-and-coming filmmaker; his debut Moon, of which Mute is a spiritual successor, was a slow, methodical meditation on the nature of identity and the human experience. In that light, Mute is a ringing, crushing disappointment: tone-deaf, messy, jumbled, derivative, and, worst of all, boring.

Alexander Skarsgård plays Leo, a bartender who is left mute after an Amish boating accident during childhood severs his vocal cords. The fact that Leo is Amish has very little to do with the central plot; it has no thematic significance, minus the suggestion of an awkward arc of Leo ‘finding his voice.’ The real plot is triggered when Leo’s blue-haired girlfriend, Naadirah, goes missing in a future, cyberpunk Berlin, forcing Leo to confront some of the seedier aspects of the city he calls home.

Trailer for Mute YOUTUBE

Noir succeeds in what it decides not to show, in what it keeps in shadow. Mute, by contrast, leaves its elements out in the open, learning all the wrong lessons from the film it is most obviously trying to emulate, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. While there characters like Roy Batty had a lot of time on screen, offsetting Harrison Ford’s Deckard, Mute has lots of aimless scenes with the film’s antagonists. The result is that this film about mystery has no mystery, feeling overwrought and overlong. The same criticism applies to its visuals, for where Blade Runner found beauty in contrast, Mute is like watching someone make a movie with the most expensive cardboard in the world.


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The film is not completely without merit – some scenes featuring Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd have some bite to them – but when good things do appear they just reinforce how ill-conceived Mute is at a foundational level. Mute is Jones’s passion project, thus he clearly got too close to it to see its problems objectively. This may help to explain the inability of the script to draw a compelling mute protagonist in the same way The Shape of Water did, or the mishandling of an inappropriate and frankly weird paedophile subplot.

So Mute is a real turkey of a film. While Moon harked back to the best sci-fi films of the ’60s and ’70s, its overtones pairing it with the dreaminess of Solaris and the humanity of Silent Running, this film feels uninspired and ill-conceived, making Jones look less like a British Rian Johnson and more like an Alex Proyas, who started off with cult favourite Dark City only to go on to make the critical carcass Gods of Egypt. The real horror of a bad film is that it forces one to reconsider the people and things one loved in the first place. That is true disappointment

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