Berlin, the future, but close enough to feel familiar: In this loud, often brutal city, Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) – unable to speak from a childhood accident – searches for his missing girlfriend, the love of his life, his salvation, through dark streets, frenzied plazas, and the full spectrum of the cities shadow-dwellers. As he seeks answers, Leo finds himself mixed up with Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), a pair of irreverent US army surgeons on a mission all their own. This soulful sci-fi journey from filmmaker Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft) imagines a world of strange currencies in which echoes of love and humanity are still worth listening to.
Prior to taking a leap with Warcraft, Duncan Jones had made two critically acclaimed sci-fi films (Moon, Source Code). With Mute audiences were anticipating a return to form as he went back to his character driven sci-fi wheelhouse. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with the Netflix original as it struggles to find an identity over the course of its bloated 126 minute runtime. It’s hard for the viewers to attach themselves to the story when the character lacks any interesting traits and the world is something we’ve seen before.
At times Mute looks like a 99¢ version of the Blade Runner universe, a film that heavily influenced it. Occasionally there are visuals that are worth a reaction while other times it plays off as a spoof of the great sci-fi films that have come before it. Skarsgård is good with what he’s given though there isn’t enough for the viewer to resonate with. Much of the film involves Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux chewing up scenery. The mischievous surgeons are much more interesting than the lead and even have more character development.
The film is tonally inconsistent as it tries to establish itself as a hardened noir character piece while still trying to inject forced humour into it. The futuristic setting becomes a bit of a gimmick as the ‘sleek and stylish’ gadgets are continually forced down the throat of the viewer. Unfortunately the film doesn’t have much to say as it tackles a story that’s been done time and time again, this time with a protagonist that lacks any real upside. Mute becomes the latest Netflix original film casualty where the style outweighs the substance.