Duncan Jones Brings the Visually Arresting, Scattershot Sci-Fi of ‘Mute’ to Netflix

GameStop, Inc.

Mute Netflix

2016 was a rough year for writer-director Duncan Jones. He lost his father to cancer. The film he spent years developing, Warcraft, was a box office flop drubbed by critics (though it do incredible business in China and has its dedicated fans). Throughout all the adversity, Duncan Jones persevered and was able to get Netflix to back his next film, Mute, which the director had been trying to get made even before his stellar debut Moon. Mute somewhat represents a return to form for Duncan Jones after Warcraft, though it never is able to hit the highs of his first two features, the aforementioned Moon and Source Code. The film is full of colorful imagery and meticulous design, but is often bogged down by its deliberate pacing that takes its time in unfolding the central mystery before flying off the rails with an absolutely bonkers and ineffective final act.

The first image of Mute is a child underwater, blood seeping into the clear liquid from wounds on his neck and chest. His family being Amish opt against any surgery that would repair his ravaged vocal chords. Years later, that young boy, Leo (Alexander Skarsgård), is entirely grown and living in the neon-infused world of a futuristic Berlin. He works as a bartender in a sleazy nightclub owned by the Russian gangster Maksim (Gilbert Owuor). Leo’s girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) also works there as a cocktail waitress. They’re relationship flourishes because of Leo’s kindness which transcends his inability to speak and complete lack of interest in embracing new technology. The life of Leo in the neon grime of Berlin is one of solitude that has only been alleviated by the presence of the kind and caring Naadirah. When she tries to unburden herself of a secret to Leo, the mute man writes that as long as she’s not leaving him it doesn’t matter much. The next morning, Naadirah is gone and Leo must search the seedy corners of Berlin to find his lost love.

Intersecting with Leo’s search for his lost love are the duo of doctors Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), who often perform illicit surgeries whenever one of Maksim’s foot soldiers gets wounded. Cactus Bill is AWOL from the American Army which is currently engaged in a variety of international skirmishes as are the current German regime, not that we’re given too much information as to the international political landscape surrounding Mute. Bill simply wants forged passports for himself and his daughter Josie (Mia-Sophie Bastin). How these two separate stories completely intersect is something that won’t be resolved until Mute reaches its conclusion.

Playing a character trapped in silence, Alexander Skarsgård brings a strong performance to Mute. He brings a physicality that is captivating to behold and really represents quite possibly the best performance of his young career. Never once are you left guessing what’s racing through the mind of Leo as he traverses the streets of Berlin. It’s all there on Skarsgård’s face. Unfortunately, his performance starts to get lost in the bizarre plotting employed by Duncan Jones and co-writer Michael Robert Johnson. You know exactly what Leo is after. The character’s motivations are crystal clear but the film’s plot is muddled and takes quite a while before escalating and thus bringing some kind of tension to the lush visuals.

Further muddying the waters of Mute are some rather bewildering storytelling choices. In this particular vision of the future, there’s a ton of prostitution going on. Part of Leo’s journey in search of Naadirah has him encountering pimps who run brothels. The mute man on a mission also runs into Luba (Robert Sheehan) a number of times, and the androgynous friend of Naadirah who once worked at the same nightclub is turning a variety of tricks in different guises. At the same time, Cactus Bill and Duck also spend quite a bit of time in brothels, and Bill often leaves his beloved daughter in the care of kindhearted prostitutes who are also, I guess, quite adept at babysitting. Then there’s also a pedophilia subplot that veers into spoiler territory, so I won’t give anything away as to the details but none of this twisted subplot is handled with either smarts or subtlety. The queasiness that these scenes induce are ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of the film, making their inclusion all the more confounding.

Even though I do find a number of issues within Mute, it’s simply a marvel to look at. Duncan Jones and his production team have crafted a vivid futuristic world drenched in neon that is along the lines of Blade Runner and its ilk. Jones is also fantastic stylist with his camera, playing around with a number stunning transitions and compositions. This is one of those cases where you really wish the script was operating at the level of its production team.

Another impressive aspect of Mute is the nuanced performance by Paul Rudd, undoubtedly one of the most charismatic actors of his generation. There’s an affability that is natural to Rudd and he brings it to most of his film roles. Here, however, he’s given so many more shades of moral complexity that it really allows the actor to explore a side of him that just has never made its way to the screen before. Once again, though, those script issues creep in and start to undermine Rudd’s incredibly strong and nuanced performance.

Nothing is going to stop Netflix on their path to world domination. Their original movie output so far has been, well, a bit all over the place, and Mute is really the perfect example of that scattershot nature. There are great ideas and some incredible design on display that have to contend with aspects of the script and story that might’ve been better excised. Some of the major storytelling decisions on display in Mute really make me wish that Duncan Jones cede scripting duties in the future because he’s still an incredibly impressive director. Mute isn’t an all-encompassing disaster a la Bright, but it’s still has to be counted as a disappointment because it has so much going for it and yet just can’t make them come together in a movie that consistently works.

  • Overall Score


An absolute triumph of production design, Mute is absolutely stunning to behold visually but the solid performances of Alexander Skarsgård and Paul Rudd get lost in a plot that is sometimes muddled and other times downright confounding.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Paul Crowder and ‘Boss’ Wooldridge Talk ‘The Blue Angels’ Doc – Interview

Director, Paul Crowder and Flying Ace, Greg “Boss” Woolridge talk about...

Eric Bana Talks ‘Force of Nature: The Dry 2’ – Interview

Eric Bana Returns for the sequel to ‘The Dry‘ in ‘Force...

Letitia Wright’s Talks about her Latest Film ‘Aisha’ – Interview

Letitia Wright’s latest film, ‘Aisha‘, a story about immigration, resilience, friendship...

Event News Event Reviews
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Takes You to A Whole New World at Segerstrom – Review

Disney’s Aladdin takes the audience on a thrilling chase and a wonderous place...

Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach on The Queen Mary this Halloween

The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Returns to Long Beach for the...

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice’ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the Arts – Review

It’s Showtime! ‘Beetlejuice‘ is a Hit at Segerstrom Center of the...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – We’re DEMONS!

I'm sure it's just allergies. Cacti is notorious for pollen...

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part something: Hermione and the Mini-gun pt 2

Have a lead salad instead!

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse part ?: Hermione and the mini-gun pt 1

It can't fire more than 6,000 per minute!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...