Jacob Richardson | 5/03/2018
Duncan Jones’ Moon was a masterpiece. Unfortunately, his expanded universe follow up fails to find it’s voice.
Following mute Amish bartender Leo (Alexander Skarsgard), Mute gets off to a hairy start when the lumbering drinks mixer gets into a bar brawl with a couple of braggadocios assholes who harass his waitress girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). When Naadirah goes missing, and Leo loses his job, he begins the hunt for her that takes him on a deadly path through her best friend Luba (Robert Sheehan), a paedophile surgeon Duck (Justin Theroux), his AWOL military medic friend Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and a little girl called Josie.
Mute is a tremendous shame. It’s frequently beautiful, full of big ideas and little call backs to Moon. But it just feels disjointed; a retread of better movies with better performances.
Alexander Skarsgard is good as Leo, and certainly in scenes where he is wordlessly screaming for his love he brings a painful bit of emotion to the role. But in a year where Sally Hawkins did so much more with the same affliction in The Shape of Water, Skarsgard can’t quite elicit the emotion he needs to. In his defence though, he isn’t really ever given the chance to. Where Guillermo Del Toro lingers in single takes on his lead performer, trusting her to elicit the requisite emotion without voice, Jones seems to undercut his star at every turn, with explanatory cuts to show what he’s looking at, what he’s feeling. It’s when Jones gives Skarsgard room to breath and perform that we see the potential in this character; but unfortunately, it’s infrequent and lacking for most of the story.
Further, Jones seems intent on switching between the main Leo finding his girlfriend story and a weird buddy dynamic between Theroux and Rudd. Theroux plays an absolutely unredeemable paedophile; a truly odd choice for the character. Meanwhile, Rudd’s disposition is never really explained. He comes across absolutely unlovable. It’s a weird pair, but there are certainly interesting shades and dynamics here, be it the deteriorating relationship between the two, Rudd’s odd circumstances behind his AWOL status, the world that finds so many US Marines AWOL in Germany. There’s intriguing threads, and almost all are left, to the detriment of the audience, unpulled.
It leads to a film that is constantly switching between two stories, and that has you lamenting it every time it switches. There are two interesting movies here, but when mashed together like this and forced to collide in service of some forced conclusion, both lose their lustre. That’s not to say there aren’t nice bits here; Jones doles out exposition in such a smart way, it feels fun and smart. And there are plenty of great visual cues here, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s just a shame that Mute is so obsessed with, as the title suggests, the mute.
Mute is a disappointing mis-mash of two tales. It’s not the fact that it’s bad, but rather that it’s almost so good, that makes it so painful to watch; a true missed opportunity that, for those following Jones since his incredible Moon, is truly heartbreaking.