To echo a lot of the other criticisms (and in fact criticisms dating all the way back to early script reviews), Mute‘s neon-junk sci-fi setting never feels totally necessary to the plot or themes, but then again there’s no valid reason why it should. Without the added visual interest, the film would probably be far more unremarkable than it already is, so I was glad for all the eye-candy.
It reminded me of the big 90s movies in the way Jones took quite an old-hat genre framework – the avenging detective – and just transfused it into the milieu of a more heightened genre, probably just for the cool factor. A lot of those American John Woo films or Bruckheimer productions feel that way. Remember that prison in Face/Off? That’s what I’m talking about; B-movies dressed up in A-grade tech. Maybe if Jones disguised the seams a little better, viewers and critics would have been kinder.
Alas, most of the fun derived from Mute comes from seeing these actors get to play dress up with extravagant costumes, wigs, moustaches. Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux all clearly relish going all-in on their meaty character parts. Nobody is the star here. Rudd and Theroux get the most surprising strand of the story that toys with some dark themes and conflicts which definitely took me off-guard. Rudd develops into the stand-out, reminding us that he is so often the secret weapon in so many films he stars in but is mostly at his best when supported by a wider ensemble, which he is here. Mute occasionally synthesises itself together for some memorable moments, but interestingly almost all of them are character based. For all the spectacle and cyber-pulp, it’s the characters you remember which I would count as a positive.
Considering we’ve heard Duncan Jones talk this project up since the earliest interviews around Moon, it’s a delight to finally see it come to light. I’m glad he got it out of his system and with Netflix carte blanche no-less. I don’t think it’s as bad or incoherent (like, what?) as many have suggested, nor is the filmmaking incompetent. In the wake of Blade Runner 2049 it seems that expectations for what this kind of movie should be have become extremely high. We also had to wait nine years for it, and it isn’t worth that kind of build-up. In the face of the puzzlingly negative reaction though – honestly, as a film, it’s totally fine – it is a lot better than you’d probably expect. Maybe if it came totally out of nowhere the reception would be kinder. It’s also nice to have another Clint Mansell score to sit alongside Moon.
Watched on Netflix.