Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Movie Review: 'Mute'

Duncan Jones is back with 'Mute', a passion project that has taken several years to come to fruition, and is now there for all to see thanks to Netflix.

Set in a near future Berlin, 'Mute' sees nightclub bartender Leo, played by Alexander Skarsgård, mute from an almost fatal boating accident when he was a boy, searching for his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), who suddenly goes missing. Along the way he crosses paths with the sleazy Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), two surgeons, one AWOL from the US military and now working for the mob, fixing up the local heavies, until he can skip out of Germany with his daughter, and the other legit with his own practice, working with prosthetics and implants but having his own dark secrets. Things soon take a dark and twisted turn as the plot progresses.

It's a slow burn of a film. But I prefer that than for a film to reveal it's hand and give the game away too soon. It keeps the tension wound up tight, and the tension is certainly tight here, as Leo pieces together the clues to his girlfriend's disappearance, and finding himself having to negotiate with shady characters in the seedy underworld of Berlin.

I really enjoyed the dark, tech noir elements, and the almost future setting is very reminiscent of the original 'Blade Runner' and the series 'Altered Carbon', which is also on Netflix. The neon lighting of the clubs and streets giving most scenes a cold almost dystopian look, and the dank, urban locations capture the mood of the film and serve as part of the character of the film, making it a very convincingly lived in city, and it's the people that populate the city that move the story.

I was really impressed with the main cast. Alexander Skarsgård manages to convey his frustrations and despair very well despite not saying a word, and he also brings his physicality to the role too. But it's Rudd and Theroux that are the standouts. Both playing characters that you wouldn't normally expect them to play, and their looks, Rudd donning a handlebar moustache and Theroux in an almost Owen Wilson style wig, being in total contrast too and helping with the disbelief. The more Rudd and Theroux are on screen, the more they seem to be pushed to the front at the expense of Skarsgård. Hints about the background of their characters are threaded into the plot, and by the end, everything is entwined. 

'Mute' is also set in the same cinematic universe as Duncan Jones' debut film 'Moon', although it is very different thematically - so don't expect something similar, and watch out for some of the Easter eggs that are scattered through out; Lunar Industries logos, a mention of Gerty and Sam Bell etc. The soundtrack from Clint Mansell, who also scored 'Moon', is back as well for a return to the 'Mooniverse'.

'Mute' is a dark, gritty, sometimes brutal and downbeat noir thriller set in a sleazy near future that can be bleak and somewhat depressing at times. It may not be for everyone but the star turns from the main cast kept me engrossed and wanting to find out how everything turns out in the end. Worth a watch!