Mute takes an old noir concept and throws in into a tumble drier. The basic plot is one we all know: Leo loves woman, woman disappears, Leo looks for woman. Easy enough, but not in the dystopian world of Berlin, where the criminal network is a labyrinth. After much investigation, Leo decides this group are responsible. He leaps into this maze, but not after much observing. Leo is, after all, mute. His only way of communicating is via a notepad, and most of the people he runs into laugh at this, not knowing why he has the notepad. Oh, and to further add to his alienation, his is Amish.
Netflix certainly crank out the content, but in this case we have a decent flick. Our main man Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) is almost like a robot, emitting no emotion. At first it seems like terrible acting, but we soon realise that his condition and subsequent life has rendered him this way. His emotionless nature also increases the impact of the few times he smiles. Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) plays his role perfectly as an obviously unhinged surgeon. His handlebar mustache is a sight to behold, and his common violent outbursts sit well with his character. His brother of war, Duck (Justin Theroux) is perfect in his personality- the two are together often and his relaxed nature, his gay tendencies (everyone is called ‘babe’) contrasts well against Cactus Bill’s violent nature.
While a little convoluted, Leo’s journey is twisted as he meets some very interesting characters. The world he is navigating is a fantastically realised dystopian society that is brilliantly lit but is home to many seedy bars, brothels and other fun places. It looks like something you’d expect from Gilliam, and there is also more than a small homage to the world of the original Blade Runner. However, this society is uniquely lit- the colours, often neon in nature, are almost always used perfectly and don’t just look good, they seem to somehow match the mood.
Through Leo’s journey, the harsh reality of being mute is amplified and certainly makes one appreciate the fact that they can talk. All he has is his notebook, and credit to the writers as despite it mostly being useless, there are a few moments when a note shakes up the criminal network or a character. In fact, a character not knowing Leo is mute while he consistently shows no emotion makes for an effective, stern presence as his hunt continues. Additionally, his complete lack of an ability to communicate becomes increasingly intimidating.
The final act is fun, but flawed. It is filled with too many concepts. It feels as if Duncan is trying to cram in as many ideas as possible after his minimalist films Moon and Source Code, but with little to no exposition or explanation. An example of this is an underground surgery featured throughout the film, that, while removing bullets for the network when needed, was certainly something more, but what that is exactly, we don’t find out. Another example is a car Leo steals that belongs to a man who has a high rank among the network. This again goes unnoticed. Then we have one scene of a market selling goods on the black market, such as technology augmentations. Again, unexplored.
There is one scene during the climax that is extremely satisfying given the irony that surrounds it. It is funny in a very, very dark way, like much of the film. It is a perfect symbol of the lost city that they are living in.
A fun film with flaws that don’t ruin the experience.
Two short of a sixer.