26 February 2018 | Troy_Campbell
Ambitious and evocative, but also pretentious and impenetrable.
Netflix has been going all-in on original content over the last few years, but until recently that was primarily through long-form narrative shows (one story told over multiple episodes) and disposable Adam Sandler movies. The last six months has seen the streaming service giant make a big push into A-grade feature length work (Mudbound, Bright, Cloverfield Paradox, to name just a few), and this sprawling sci-fi is arguably their most intriguing prospect yet. With ambitious auteur Duncan Jones given free rein on what he has expressed as his passion project, having concocted the story with childhood friend and co-writer Michael Robert Johnson, there's zero chance of it being dull. And dull it most definitely isn't, the propulsive story-a man scours the grimy underbelly of a futuristic Berlin when his girlfriend goes missing-keeps the viewer on their toes whilst the gorgeous realisation of a Blade Runner-esque tech-future is a pure feast for thine eyes. But here's the catch: with a reluctance to explain almost anything about this world, or provide character motivation for anyone other than Alexander Skarsgård's silent bartender Leo, the plot can be complicated to the point of pretentious. There are a lot of little flourishes and subtle touches that colour this universe, although they would have meant so much more if the overall context was clearer. As it stands these unexplained moments become increasingly frustrating, threatening to derail the whole movie. His acting skills well and truly put to the test, Skarsgård is likable enough as the gentle giant on a mission; however, Paul Rudd is horribly miscast as a scumbag AWOL soldier, his persistent mean-spirited goading of others regularly veering into pantomime. There is clearly a lot of passion and ambition on display with Mute, but while for some it will be evocative and demanding, for others it will simply be pompous and impenetrable. For me it's somewhere in the middle with the scales tipping ever so slightly towards the latter.