Thursday, April 26, 2018

In short: Mute (2018)

This Netflix production was apparently a dream project for its director and co-writer Duncan Jones, a film he tried to get made over quite a few years. Watching it, however, I can’t help but think only the wonderfully strange future Berlin it takes place in (which an aside shows to be situated in the same world as Jones’s one perfect movie, Moon), presented as a mix of Blade Runner, today extrapolated sideways and German Shadowrun, was the dream part of the project. At least, I have difficulty imagining a filmmaker’s great dream movie plot would concern a clueless yet violent mute Amish (so he can be conveniently clueless about the place and time he lives in to an absurd degree) dude looking for his girlfriend who seems involved in the usual future noir shenanigans.

While the world Mute takes place in is often fun, as idiosyncratic as a real future, and interesting to look at – and for once in an English language movie features actual idiomatic German (admittedly, it’s a German co-production) – the plot that should lead us through it is rote, told without anything that could hook a viewer emotionally, and moves slowly, oh so very very slowly, for no reason I could make out. Adding some awkward feelings to the boredom is a low-level yet difficult to ignore vibe of homophobia that’s utterly bewildering coming from the son of David Bowie.

The characters moving through this have all the life of stage props. Alexander Skarsgård’s Leo in particularly is probably meant to be a tragic naïf but comes over as totally lifeless, not a man out of time so much as a man too boring to bother with, the actor’s never-ending barrage of would-be soulful glances notwithstanding. In general (and quite a bit of this blog proves it) I have no problem at all with movies more interested in showing a world instead of providing a classic narrative, but the tedious way Jones approaches the narrative that’s there doesn’t actually seem to be designed to show the movie’s world off at all. Unfortunately, what it’s supposed to do and why, I have no idea, and I can’t help but have the impression Jones doesn’t know it either.

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