Duncan Jones’ ‘Mute’ Is A Confusing, Underwhelming Sci-Fi Noir

It looks cool, though.

Mute (R21)

Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux

Directed by Duncan Jones

This movie truly lives up to its title: It’s muted as hell! And coming from Duncan Jones, the acclaimed director of Moon and Source Code, it’s incredibly, incredibly disheartening.

The Berlin-set sci-fi noir, now streaming on Netflix, follows Alexander Skarsgård’s speech-impaired man as he ventures into the seedy underworld to search for his missing girlfriend. Holding the key to unlocking the mystery are a pair of scene-stealing surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) with mob ties and unsavory predilections. 

While the neon-soaked movie is beautiful to look at (the dystopian neo-Berlin is a place Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard would feel at home in), its tone is frustratingly all over the place: Is it a cautionary tale, a mad-scientist thriller, a black comedy… what is it

mute inset
You belong to the city: Director Duncan Jones dedicated 'Mute' to his late father David Bowie, who made three classic albums — 'Low', 'Heroes', and 'Lodger' — in Berlin in the ’70s.

It’s all set-up and no pay-off. At times, it feels like a truncated version of a TV series (a la Altered Carbon), but with all the good parts left out. Jones has said that Mute was a long-gestating personal project and doing it was a way to get his creative mojo rebooted, following his exhausting bout with studio bigwigs over his video-game adaptation Warcraft

Free therapy was how he called it. But guess what? You, too, will be seeking therapy after watching it. (**)

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