Mute (2018 film)
Film release poster
|Directed by||Duncan Jones|
|Produced by||Stuart Fenegan|
|Story by||Duncan Jones|
|Music by||Clint Mansell|
Mute is a 2018 neo-noir science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones, who co-wrote the script with Michael Robert Johnson. It stars Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux, revolving around a mute bartender searching for the love of his life who has mysteriously disappeared.
The film has been described by Jones as a "spiritual sequel" to his 2009 film Moon. It was released on Netflix on 23 February 2018 and received negative reviews, with praise for the visuals but criticism for its pacing, plot, and mishandled subject material; it drew unfavorable comparisons to Blade Runner from many critics.
A childhood accident leaves Leo mute and his devout Amish mother refuses surgery. As an adult in 2035, he works as a bartender at a Berlin strip club and dates cocktail waitress Naadirah. She confides in her friend Luba that she has not told Leo about her past or her desperate need for money.
After Stuart, a rowdy customer, sexually harasses Naadirah, Leo assaults him. Naadirah talks Leo down by telling him that she needs to keep her job.
Naadirah shows up at Leo's apartment and attempts to tell him about something important. Leo shows her an elaborate bed he has been carving as a present for her. Naadirah is overcome with emotion and they have sex. Elsewhere, Maksim's mobsters meet two American surgeons, Cactus Bill and Duck, who run a black-market clinic. Bill desperately wants to leave Berlin and has pressed Maksim to provide forged documents for him and his young daughter, Josie. Duck, however, enjoys living in Berlin and runs a side business where he installs implants and performs cybernetic surgery.
Stuart returns to the strip club and taunts Leo, leading to a fight and Maksim firing Leo. When he's unable to contact Naadirah, Leo asks Luba for help, but Luba refuses. An anonymous text message leads Leo to a black-market bazaar run by Stuart. Bill and Josie are there, and Bill takes Josie away as Stuart confronts Leo. Suddenly remembering that Naadirah wrote an address on his notepad a while back, Leo leaves the bazaar after using charcoal to read the imprint.
Naadirah's address leads Leo to Oswald. When Leo expresses interest in a picture of Naadirah, Oswald assumes Leo works for Maksim's underling Nicky Simsek, who is skimming money from Maksim's prostitutes. Leo meets with Simsek, who is babysitting Josie. Leo befriends Josie and leaves the money from Oswald and a note incriminating Simsek in front of Maksim's henchmen.
After tracking down Naadirah's address, Leo discovers Luba instead. Luba admits that he and Naadirah have been working as prostitutes to earn the money she so desperately needs. Luba also expresses anger at Naadirah having loved Leo instead of himself. Tracking down Naadirah's mother, Leo learns Naadirah is Josie's mother and realizes Bill is responsible for Naadirah's disappearance.
After Bill and Duck torture Simsek on Maksim's orders, Bill discovers pictures of naked children on Duck's computer. Bill threatens to break Duck's arms if he ever touches a child, but Bill becomes elated when Maksim reports he has the forged documents ready. Bill takes Duck out on the town in celebration, offering his house to Duck. A security guard stops them for a casual theft, and Bill threatens to kill the guard. When Duck intervenes, Bill strikes him. Upset by this treatment, Duck texts Bill's destination to Leo. Leo takes a support beam from the bed he made, uses it to beat up Maksim and his henchmen, and then takes Bill’s forged documents.
In Bill's house, Leo finds a badly wounded Simsek and Naadirah's asphyxiated corpse in a bag, murdered by Bill. After killing Simsek, Bill attacks Leo, only to have Leo impale Bill on his own knife. Duck arrives at Bill's house, refuses to take Bill to a hospital, and taunts him with the knowledge that he will kidnap Josie. Duck knocks out Leo and implants an electrolarynx so he can hear Leo apologize for killing Bill. When Leo refuses, Duck takes him to the bridge in the one photo Leo has of Naadirah. Leo still refuses to apologize, takes a deep breath and throws them both into the water. Duck drowns and Leo shouts a warning to Josie not to get close to the bridge’s edge. Both of them safe and sound, Leo tells Josie he will take her to her maternal grandmother. After some time has passed a healed Leo sits with Josie in a restaurant, both drawing pictures.
- Alexander Skarsgård as Leo, a man left mute from a childhood accident
- Levi Eisenblätter as young Leo
- Paul Rudd as Cactus Bill, an American surgeon
- Justin Theroux as Duck, Cactus' partner and best friend
- Seyneb Saleh as Naadirah, Leo's girlfriend
- Robert Sheehan as Luba
- Gilbert Owuor as Maksim
- Jannis Niewöhner as Nicky Simsek
- Robert Kazinsky as Rob
- Noel Clarke as Stuart
- Dominic Monaghan as Oswald
- Mia-Sophie and Lea-Marie Bastin as Josie
- Florence Kasumba as Tanya
- Anja Karmanski as Kathy
- Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell (uncredited cameo)
The film was in development hell for many years, but Jones always said he wished to direct it and has described it as a "spiritual sequel" to Moon, heavily inspired by the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner (1982). During the film's development, Jones had expressed his desire for Sam Rockwell to reprise his role from Moon in a cameo appearance that was to act as an epilogue for the character, and that the film would be the second installment in a trilogy consisting of Moon, Mute and yet to be announced third film. In October 2016, Justin Theroux officially joined the cast, joining Skarsgård, Rudd, Noel Clarke and Florence Kasumba.
Filming began on September 28, 2016. The film was shot on site in Berlin by cinematographer Gary Shaw, who worked with Jones on Moon. A classic Mercedes-Benz was used in filming, as confirmed by Jones as he tweeted a photo of it on set. The film is dedicated in memory of those who become parents - David Jones (1947–2016), the director's father, David Bowie, and Marion Skene (1950–2017), the director's nanny.
Clint Mansell composed the film's score. In a series of Instagram posts titled Mute & Me, he cited the culture of 20th century Berlin as a major influence, claiming that "Berlin has been, and continues to be, a cultural hot bed of our times". Mansell drew from multiple forms of Berlin culture, including "poets and artists, musicians and philosophers, dreamers and drunks, lovers and the lost and lonely, the wild, the beautiful, and the damned". During background research for the film, Mansell claimed to have drawn inspiration from works of German expressionism such as Metropolis, the crime drama M, as well as works of classic and contemporary film noir like In A Lonely Place, Cape Fear, Chinatown, Brick, and Blood Simple.
Mansell also looked at the works of New German Cinema filmmakers like Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Wim Wenders. He points to Fassbinder's World on a Wire as a specific sci-fi influence from that era. He also looked at the krautrock group Popul Vuh and their collaborations with Herzog on Aguirre, Wrath of God, and Nosferatu the Vampyre. Mansell cited Jones' father David Bowie's Berlin Trilogy of albums as being a major influence in terms of representing Berlin culture, along with other Brian Eno-produced albums like Ultravox!.
The film has been heavily promoted and discussed by Jones on Twitter with production stills and concept art. On 6 January 2017 three stills from the film were released, showing characters Leo, Cactus Bill, and Duck with the backdrop of a futuristic Berlin.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 16% based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 4.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Visually polished but narratively derivative and overall muddled, Mute is a would-be sci-fi epic whose title serves as an unfortunate guide to how it might be best enjoyed." On Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, the film received a weighted average score of 35 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."
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