Recently there seem to be two kinds of trailers. The ones that show the entire plot in a two-minute supercut and the ones who create a completely wrong impression of what a movie might be in the viewer. Mute belongs to the ladder, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Mute is the passion project of Duncan Jones, the mastermind behind Moon and the director of Source Code and the highly underrated Warcraft. This time he tells the story of the mute bartender Leo who lives in the Berlin of the future and has to go search for his missing girlfriend. The basic plot is simple and straightforward, but that’s not what the movie is about. Some people might be turned away by the at times messy narrative that in some parts fails to communicate the gravitas of a scene to the audience, but it leads to a quite satisfying finale that ties the story arcs of the characters together and leaves the viewer with no open questions.
Instead of going for the usual Noir film in the future about men with super suppressed emotions, Jones tells a simple story about love from the viewpoints of vastly different characters in which the technology and the sci-fi setting is only used as a backdrop for the beautiful images. The story being driven by characters instead of action setpieces makes the movie slower and lets them breathe in the atmospheric futuristic Berlin and makes for a likable people that aren’t good, bad or an antihero but rather individuals with their own agenda.
Bringing those characters alive is not an easy task, but a phenomenal cast of actors makes sure that none of the characters seem like assholes. Especially Alexander Skarsgard delivers an incredibly nuanced portrayal without saying a single work. The amount of emotion he can convey solely relying on facial expressions is staggering and ranges from grief to love and hate. Paul Rudd also masters a character that very well could’ve turned out an unlikable bastard but manages to keep him relatable. The absolute highlight of this ensemble is Justin Theroux, though. He plays a charming surgeon and although the movie strongly suggests a very dark side of his, he stays charismatic but slightly creepy, until the end.
Did I mention that this movie is incredibly beautiful? Cinematographer Gary Shaw captures the futuristic Berlin with soon-to-be iconic shots and the staggering set and overall production design helps make this the most gorgeous and visually stunning Netflix movie to this day. It makes me a little sad that I didn’t get to enjoy these visuals in a theater but that’s another topic…
Writing this a day after the worldwide release and therefore after the initial reactions, it is impossible not to address the elephant in the room. Yes, Mute scores at 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and it has a devastating Metascore of 35 (both on February, 5th 2018). I’m not saying that this is some sort of conspiracy by the critics to trash Netflix or Duncan Jones, but rather the effect of misunderstanding genre theory and the aftermath of the cynical sci-fi oversaturation. I doubt that this movie will be seen as a failure in a few years, but rather as a misunderstood gem of an evolving genre that makes room for other stories to be told in a futuristic setting to further contemplate on the possibilities of a changing society than the standard Blade Runner wannabes.
Mute is a fascinating piece of cinema and manages to tell a beautiful story accompanied by equally beautiful visuals and every fan of science fiction, Duncan Jones or Casablanca (trust me on this one) should watch it. If Bright manages to become Netflix’ most viewed film and even score a sequel, this movie has to get some much-deserved love, even if it’s just to prevent Duncan Jones going into directors jail.