Back in the beginning of 2009, a young director appeared on the film scene with his amazing debut called Moon, a fun and clever film with an amazing performance by Sam Rockwell; it was all around great. Two years later, he released his second film, Source Code, which also was a really well-made film. Another five would pass until his next one would follow, unfortunately, though, this film from the promising director failed to generate any positive reviews. Warcraft was a boring mess, but, as a lot of people suggested, this was due to studio interferences, thus not Duncan Jones’ fault. Then, he announced his new film, Mute, a spiritual successor to his debut film, which would be a revenge story about a mute bartender. This news sparked some hope with fans of his previous work, including me. Now that film has been released and the fans have been able to watch it, those fans, including me, are quite disappointed.
Mute had me worried for quite some time. The film was supposed to come out in 2017 but was ultimately pushed back to February 2018, which is usually not a good sign. The budget also wasn’t that small, and as his previous big-budget film wasn’t good, I became more and more skeptical, since a lot of directors are able to create wonderful small budget films, but as soon as they’re given a lot of money, they don’t know what to do with it and a bad film will follow. Me being skeptical might’ve for once been good, as it held me back from becoming completely disappointed, because, this film’s far from good. It’s really bad, actually. And here’s why.
The film already fails at the fundamental aspects of being a film; entertain. Mute is one of the most uninteresting and boring films I’ve seen in quite some time. There are a few things that made this film as boring as it is, but it all started at the basis; the telling of a story. The story, even if you can call it a story was absolutely terrible. It’s hard for me to tell what this film was about, or even give you the central theme, after having seen it. Even during it, I was confused as to what it was about. It’s about a mute bartender searching for revenge- sure-, but that’s just the main premise. Duncan Jones goes on to add a lot of other things to the mix and tells it in the most incoherent way possible, which makes the film more convoluted than it should be which really didn’t help to heighten the interesting level.
The characters too don’t really help at creating an interesting story either, since there were practically no real characters – just names. There’s Leo, an asshole mute bartender, played by Alexander Skarsgard, who in this film seemingly only had three expressions. There’s his girlfriend, who gets kidnapped and was played by a terrible actress. There’s Cactus, an asshole surgeon, played by Paul Rudd who had a relationship with his fellow asshole surgeon called Duck, played by Justin Theroux. These two were most definitely the best aspect of the film, as they had some great chemistry, but unfortunately did the script limit them from having actual good banter. They’re also involved in the weirdest and most out of place subplot, which serves no purpose to the story whatsoever. It’s brought up, the characters react to it, but furthermore, it has no consequences.
I’m not the guy to complain if a character isn’t sympathetic, but in a film where the story’s horrible, the pacing terrible and the cinematography uninspiring (more about those two later), I at least hope that I can give one single fuck about one of the characters, so that the film becomes slightly more enjoyable, but this really wasn’t the case, due to them all being assholes. Leo wasn’t even developed well. The film starts off showing us how he became mute and that he has a relationship with a girl. That’s all we get. And that’s what Jones’ idea was to build a movie on. Doesn’t that sound fun?
There are a few things I want to find in a movie, but above all, I really want a film to be well paced and have some decent characters. So, does Mute have any of those? Not really. As established previously, the characters were far from good, but the editing too, is quite bad. The editing was odd and the pacing atrocious. Nearly every scene was drawn out for way too long, which made the film feel incredibly boring. The scenes involving Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux were edited and shot rather comically, but this didn’t mesh well with how the scenes with Skarsgard, who were trying to be gritty. The film takes way too long to set itself up, then, when the middle comes, which was hard to distinguish from the set-up, due to it being so drawn out, it surprisingly still manages to become more boring. They even failed to create an interesting third act, which was very underwhelming, even in this film. If you don’t get it by now; the pacing was terrible.
Even the sci-fi elements were disappointing. The film underutilizes its futuristic setting, which makes me wonder why he even decided for it to take place in the future. There’s literally no reason for it not to take place in present day. It might’ve even worked better if it was. There were some futuristic elements, but those were uninspiring and unoriginal, much like the film itself. And not only was the time period underutilized the location too. Everything felt way too confined. A lot of scenes took place in the same location and characters also constantly bumped into each other in those locations, which made the city feel very small rather than the big one the film’s trying to create, placed in an even bigger world.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of things the film did okay; one of which was the cinematography. The neon color palette looked decent, yet senseless, but in comparison to the rest of the film, this stood out as one of the best aspects it had to offer. Some of the framing seemed off, but overall it looked like a neon interpretation of a second-hand Blade Runner. That may sound like a negative criticism, but I mean it in a good way. Duncan Jones also showed that he is capable of being a good director, more so than a screenwriter, by having some creative camera movements and shots. But that’s about all the positive things I have to say about Mute, except for the previously mentioned performances of Rudd and Theroux.
Mute just wasn’t good. It was quite a mess; it was disappointing, uninspiring and above all really boring. A handful of performances were fine, but there were also some rotten apples. The cinematography and some creative ideas keep the film from becoming absolutely garbage, but to be honest, it really isn’t that far from being it.