Mute (2018)

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Silent Night, Dragged out Plight

Director: Duncan Jones
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh, Robert Sheehan, Gilbert Owuor, Robert Kazinsky, Noel Clarke, Dominic Monaghan, Florence Kasumba

In order to find out what happened to his missing partner, a mute bartender named Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) goes up against the city's gangsters, while crossing paths with two Army surgeons (Paul Rudd & Justin Theroux).

It's wonderful the freedom that Netflix allows, so that creative forces can breathe life into their long gestating projects. One such example is Duncan Jones, whose been working on such a passion project since before the release of his 2009 breakout hit, Moon, and was finally granted the ability to bring it to life. This makes it all the more tragic when the end result is such a dull drag that is so frustratingly ill-handled.

The worst aspect stands front and centre, in the guise of our lead named Leo. A character that's repeatedly mentioned as being Amish, a fact that only serves the purpose of explaining one part of this underwritten figure. It's a shame Alexander Skarsgård doesn't seem up to the task in this role, failing to deliver the necessary expressiveness which often goes into non-speaking characters. But what's most frustrating lies at a script level, with how unimportant our very protagonist seems in the whole story. He essentially travels through scenes with other important characters, yet comes off as an aspect that could be easily written out, and not change much. Instead, the focus seems to be on Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd, whose characters have late story additions which attempt to add layers, but are mind-bogglingly mishandled. These seemingly integral aspects to their characters come off as lame twists, akin to what M Night Shyamalan was regularly mocked for including in his films.

Duncan Jones has shown his deft handling of genres before, which makes the tonal mess witnessed here all the more befuddling. After the reveal of a pretty dramatic revelation, there's an immediate undercutting with a light-hearted celebration cruise to the mall. This feature is packed with scenes that could've easily been left on the cutting room floor, but their inclusion makes the ensuing 126 minutes unfortunately drag on.

Netflix may be helping filmmakers to bring to screen their filmmaking goals, but perhaps Mute shouldn't have been one of them. An unfortunate mess that needed another few cracks at the script, this may be an argument for why some passion projects are better off staying hidden away, left to collect dust.

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