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Mute review: Alexander Skarsgard lumbers through eye-popping but action-light sci-fi

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This derivative sci-fi thriller about a missing woman struggles to find its own voice and consistent character.

Strong and silent Alexander Skarsgard plays a mute barman searching for his missing girlfriend, lumbering through a neon-lit Berlin, forty years in the future.

Meanwhile Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux are mercenary military medics who drink and banter during surgery in a manner reminiscent of Robert Altman’s 1970 classic, MASH.

One is desperate to relocate to the US and the other is happy to stay in order to indulge his dark impulses.

This ambitious structure of two criss-crossing stories results in a disjointed journey, without much in the way of action or humour. These strands are so visually and tonally different, they rub against each other generating static but insufficient thrill power.

Mute doesn’t possess the strong authorial voice, sharp storytelling or acute mind of its heroes. The script doesn’t question what makes us human, or make a highly politicised anti-war statement. This isn’t noir, or satire or action adventure. As towards the end it drowns in sentiment, I still wasn’t sure what it is.

Alexander Skarsgard as Leo searches for his missing girlfriend

Justin Theroux as Duck Teddington indulges his dark impulses

Paul Rudd as military doctor, Cactus Bill, enjoys a drink during surgery

Described as a spiritual sequel to his intriguing 2009 debut, Moon. Sam Rockwell cameos in the same role here but his presence serves to remind us how Jones has struggled to deliver on his early promise. Neither 2011’s Source Code or 2016’s Warcraft were as interesting, rigorous or successful in their execution.

What comedy exists is launched in broad stabs, mostly from Rudd, and I suspect the occasional sense of absurdity springs from the far reaching impact of cult British comic, 2000AD.

Beautifully to look the moody neon style is borrowed wholesale from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and suffers from too little sense of it’s own identity.

Director Duncan Jones is honest about being influenced by Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, though frankly they’d be no denying it. He certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last.

Women are even more mute than Skarsgard, being mostly confined to the background even when the plot nominally concerns their wellbeing.

After Denis Villeneuve’s extraordinary Blade Runner 2049 became a big budget casualty last year, it’s easy to see why distributors where wary of putting this into cinemas.

So fair play to Netflix for giving it a platform for audiences to see it. I just wish it was more involving and gave me something to shout about.

  • Movie Name Mute
  • Year: 2018
  • Directed by: Duncan Jones
  • Running time: 126 mins
  • Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux

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