Cert 15 126mins Stars 2
This derivative sci-fi thriller is beautifully designed but an ambitious structure of two criss-crossing stories results in a disjointed and un-engaging journey.
Strong and silent Alexander Skarsgard plays a mute barman searching for his missing girlfriend, lumbering through the seedy criminal world of Berlin, forty years in the future.
Meanwhile Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux are mercenary military medics who drink and banter during surgery in a manner reminiscent of Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H. One is desperate to relocate to the US and the other is happy to stay in order to indulge his dark impulses.
So visually and tonally different are these strands, they rub against each other without much in the way of action or humour, and generating static but no thrill power.
What comedy exists is launched in broad stabs, mostly from Rudd, and I suspect the occasional minor absurdity springs from the far reaching impact of cult British comic, 2000AD.
Women are even more mute than Skarsgard, being mostly confined to the background even when the plot is nominally concerns their wellbeing.
The dark neon style is borrowed wholesale from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and lacks invention or a sense of it’s own identity.
Director Duncan Jones is honest about being influenced by Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, though frankly they’d be no denying it. He certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last. But the more closely Mute parades its primary visual source, the more we recognise it’s lack of identity.
Mute doesn’t possess the strong authorial voice, sharp storytelling or acute mind of its heroes. The script doesn’t question what makes us human, or make a highly politicised anti-war statement. This isn’t noir, or satire or action adventure. As towards the end it drowns in sentiment, I still wasn’t sure what it is.
Described as a spiritual sequel to his intriguing 2009 debut, Moon. Sam Rockwell cameos in the same role here but his presence serves to remind us how Jones has struggled to deliver on his early promise. Neither 2011’s Source Code or 2016’s Warcraft were as interesting, rigorous or successful in their execution.
After the extraordinary Blade Runner 2049 became a big budget casualty last year, it’s easy to see why distributors where wary of putting this into cinemas. Big budget sci-fi films not based on an existing book, film or even game have suffered in recent years.
So fair play to Netflix for giving it a platform for audiences to see it. I just wish it was more involving and gave me something to shout about.