We're starting to get more movies and TV focused on futuristic noir. Blade Runner 2049 and Altered Carbon have just come down the pike and Mute joins that crowd. They all share a similar style, exposed neon colours and a creepy and dirty city to play around in. Mute doesn't reinvent the wheel, but they change enough to show off an interesting style. I enjoyed Mute's cinematography and environments even though it shares this vision with movies like Blade Runner. This was needed too, when you're starting to drift from Leo and Bill's adventures, they bring in some new trick or piece of technology to move things along.
Despite the negative reviews, the one positive things I heard before turning Mute on was Paul Rudd's performance as Cactus Bill. I have to agree, Rudd actually makes for a compelling villain and this is a big departure from Ant-Man. His performance is noteworthy, and it was a good reminder what he's capable of. Alexander Skarsgård is fine as Leo, he's just not given a lot to work with. He's an underrated actor but he's kneecapped by his character. Seyneb Saleh is good in her part as Naadirah. She's sultry yet reserved and she performs as capably as she can. Justin Theroux is suitably slimy as Donald, he has a good interplay with Rudd and that again helps the movie along. I don't approve of what they do with his character, it just comes across as gross and then they never bring it up again.
Netflix is becoming a place for filmmakers to explore their dream projects. I approve of that and we as moviegoers need more unique stuff as many things are just becoming more and more formulaic. But this idea is a double-edged sword, while its good that we get unconventional content, the flip-side is that there is no one there to rein the creative team in when things go array. My biggest problem with Mute isn't that it was long, it was that the pacing of this movie can be compared to how fast a glacier floats. We have an interesting setting and mildly interesting characters, but the movie just aimlessly wanders like Leo when he's looking for Naadirah. Maybe it would have been a little cliche but this would have been so much better if they had made some minor edits to the story and made Mute take place over 1 night. We spend entire nights with Leo where he makes little to no progress and then we watch him wake up and try all over again. It's not like he makes a ton of gradual progress, the plot shifts on his very quick realizations so why couldn't this have been tightened down? I don't necessarily need a ton of action, but our main character is a blank slate other than knowing a little about his background, the movie needed something other than the acting and the cool environments to coast on.
I've already talked about how Mute's plot needed to be tightened up and have some added urgency but the other crime that this movie commits is that it loses any leftover goodwill with its unusual conclusion. A lot of things can be forgiven with a strong and exciting resolution and if you have the choice between starting strong and finishing strong, go with the strong finish. Instead of ramping up the stakes, the movie dives into becoming weirder and more contemplative. Characters make choices for no other reason than to propel the story, they aren't realistic, and you can tell that they're going to come back and bite them immediately. Mute needed to desperately pull a rabbit out of its hat to keep me interested over the long run time and while the film features a plot twist, it wasn't nearly enough, and the ending left me nonplussed and frustrated.
With the absolute beating this movie took from the critics, I thought I was in for a train wreck. But I was actually pretty impressed with this movie after the first 30 minutes. They assembled a good cast; the environment is fun to look at and they set up a decent mystery. It was only when I got past the first hour that the pacing, the weird character motivations and the meandering nature of the story started to get to me. I've enjoyed Duncan Jones' past work and I'm glad he got to make this. But Mute is far from must-see cinema, if you really like stuff like Blade Runner and are big into science fiction, this might be worth your time. Otherwise, Mute is another mixed bag from Netflix as they try to jump start making blockbuster entertainment.
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