Mute

Netflix’s sci-fi mystery thriller, “Mute”, starts off interesting. However, it becomes a huge mess, before trying to redeem itself in its last minutes. “Mute” is by director Duncan Jones and debuted on Netflix last 23 February 2018.

Film Review of “Mute” on Netflix

Plot

“Mute” follows Leo, a devout Amish man living in Berlin’s underbelly in the year 2035. He sets off on a quest to find his girlfriend Naadirah, who goes missing the day after they spend a night together. Naadirah is beautiful and kind but has dark secrets. On the other side of town, two American surgeons named Cactus and Duck are performing surgeries on a gang member. Leo, Naadirah, Cactus, and Duck work under bar owner and crime syndicate leader Maksim. Leo is a bartender, while Cactus and Duck are his private surgeons-slash-torturers.

Review

The premise is simple and generic: guy tries to find his girlfriend who has a dark past unknown to him. It’s a bit like Gone Girl but without the psychopath lover.

The good things

Given that Amish traditions are already removed from today’s digital culture, the movie could have been set in the 2010s. But Jones pushes the timeline further, to highlight two things. One, the significance of technology in the story, and two, the contrast of tradition and innovation. It is through technology that Leo is able to track the whereabouts of Naadirah. Traditional ways like poring through an old phone directory book also look more charming alongside flying cars and dancing robots. The production design by Gavin Bocquet is spectacular, especially when it comes to the details on communication devices. The movie’s multilingualism is also a positive nod to multiculturalism and openness. It uses four languages, namely English, German, Pashto, and sign language.

Lack of clear narrative

Unfortunately, those are the only interesting things about the movie. It jumps from one point to another without providing a strong background and character stories, leaving viewers in the dark. Who are these people? What happened to them? And most importantly, why is their narrative important? The movie fails to give life to an otherwise humdrum plot. It’s such a confusing mess that when you get to the crux of the story, you’re already tired trying to understand how everything adds up. And when you do, you realize how unclimactic the movie is. Jones tries to redeem the movie with a compelling confrontation between Leo and Duck towards the end. Sadly, those efforts came too late in the game.

Elements that could have made the story more colorful, such as political conflict and crime, were left to the side. The whole Leo-Maksim-Cactus connection could have used more development. Instead, it placed too much emphasis on love and romantic relations.

Acting woes

Alexander Skarsgård strips his macho image entirely to play the movie’s lead, Leo. His performance was too hollow and shallow, overshadowing the richness of Leo’s character. There’s no depth in his eyes nor actions, not until towards the very, very end. Seyneb Saleh was charming as Nadeerah, but there was no palpable connection between her and Skarsgård. Paul Rudd’s contrived portrayal of the criminal surgeon Cactus betrays his decades of good work. The whole idea of Rudd sporting a 70’s seedy film actor-style mustache is great. But his portrayal of a criminal Cactus was too weak. Justin Theroux’s portrayal of Duck is the steady light amidst everything, despite his character’s dark tendencies.

“Mute”, in all honesty, is a terrible waste of time. You could afford to miss this film and instead spend time on well-loved fantasy and sci-fi flicks on Netflix, such as Annihilation, Bright, and Orbiter 9.

(Cover photo courtesy of Keith Bernstein/Netflix)