Review: Netflix’s ‘Mute’ Is Both Retro And Futuristic Noir

After reading an article earlier today about the straight to Netflix movie, Mute. I didn’t read a lot about it, only that the film started Alexander Skaarsgard and that it was a cyberpunkish sci-fi affair. That alone sold me.

I decided to fire up Netflix and started to watch the movie and found myself surprised at just how much I began to enjoy it. I did have some issues with one particular character (I’ll get into that later), but all in all, I thought it a solid and enjoyable film.

It’s good that I’m not a movie critic, because right now Mute has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. But the viewer rating is much higher, at 67%. It seems that once again, the critics are completely out of touch with movie audiences, and that’s fine by me. Does anyone even take critics seriously anymore?

To start with, Mute comes to us from the mind of Duncan Jones (yes, the son of David Bowie). Jones has given us some pretty awesome movies, including Moon and Source Code. He also directed the Warcraft movie, but whatever. Mute tells the story of a young Amish man, Leo, (Skaarsgard) who lives in this cyberpunk, yet very retro world, in the future, but filled with things of the past, including classic cars.

Leo cannot speak because of a childhood accident. As he is Amish, his family refused to get him the surgery he needed to repair his voice. He is a bit of a technophobe, because the Amish don’t really get much into tech. Leo, though, has a decent life: he’s a bartender at a strip joint in Berlin. Leo has a beautiful blue-haired girlfriend, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). Except that his beautiful girlfriend has a secret and eventually goes missing.

This is when the movie begins to go full-on noir. Seriously, it could easily have been set in the 1950s and done up in black and white at this point, but with the sci-fi setting, it comes off more like Blade Runner. Leo goes out to search for Naadirah, only to discover exactly what her secret is (and it’s a bit of a surprise).

Meanwhile, there are these two ex military guys, Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), who have issues of their own.

Here’s a spoiler, but also a warning: Duck is a pedophile. And that is made obvious by his leering at some underage girls in their underwear. In the #metoo age, it’s a little disturbing watching it, but know this: he gets his come-uppance in the end.

Somehow, Leo ends up involved in the affairs of Cactus Bill and Duck. Everything eventually comes to a head, though, with a satisfying conclusion that just works.

Of the few good reviews I’ve seen of Mute, critics seem to like Rudd and Theroux’s performances the best, but I’m going to disagree wholeheartedly. This movie belongs to Skaarsgard, who manages to deliver a beautiful and understated performance without uttering a single word of dialogue. That’s not easy, but Skaarsgard brings emotion to many scenes that left me feeling gutted just from watching him. This movie shows off some of his range and it’s obvious he’s come a long way since his days as the vampire Eric on True Blood. If anything, he’s the reason I kept watching, even after getting that disturbing earlier revelation about Duck.

What did I think? I liked this movie and I disagree with the critics who call it a mess, because I had no problem following it. I loved the retro music choices, as well as the mix of retro and futuristic in the setting. I liked how it ended, as well as how Leo’s character arc panned out.

Rating: (4 / 5)

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