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Directed by Duncan Jones, Mute is a science-fiction thriller about a mute bartender who investigates the disappearance of the woman he loves armed with only a notepad and the occasional wooden bat. The film has received mixed reviews since its Netflix release.

Having the film come out so soon after a full season of Altered Carbon might have been a bit of a mistake as comparisons between both would no doubt arise, seeing as the film and the show owe a lot to Blade Runner in terms of tone and visuals. The relatively recent release of Blade Runner 2049 did not help either since, by this point, this vision of the future might not feel quite as unique as it once did. All this coupled with Warcraft's poor critical reception, the usual straight-to-Netflix stigma and the fact that Mute isn't really what you'd expect, probably means that Duncan Jones' film is destined for cult adoration and mainstream disinterest. While, in a way, this is your typical sci-fi film noir with Alexander Skarsgård's Leo in the private detective role and your usual mix of neon-lit streets, prostitutes and rampant crime, Mute tells a very different type of story using this backdrop. We know very little about Leo except for his Amish upbringing, the fact he's mute and that he is dating strip club waitress Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), who later disappears, so that makes him unpredictable and, indeed, the film teases us with our expectations of Leo throughout.

Speaking of which, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux play two surgeons, Cactus Bill and Duck, who earn a living fixing up and torturing criminals for the mob. They are a playful, if dangerous duo and they act as the film's comic relief for a bit, until a dark revelation about one of them changes everything. Their story doesn't gel completely with the main plot but, by the end of the film, you'll realise that, once again, Duncan Jones was playing with your expectations of heroes and villains. This is a much more clever film than some have given it credit for and that's because, similar to some of Terry Gilliam's work, it is erratic and weird and not always coherent, with some rather theatrical performances at times. The contrasts it creates, however, are always interesting: a mute, kind Amish carpenter in a loud, sleazy and cruel futuristic world, with Cactus Bill as the embodiment of what he isn't. Unpleasant themes are brought up in Mute and this might turn some viewers off but the film never lets anything get gratuitous and doesn't lose track of what it's, ultimately, trying to say.

Mute may be just as derivative as Altered Carbon but it's also just as interesting, if also just as flawed. That said, it does feel more substantial, so much so that repeat viewings might actually improve it, and it has an emotional punch that even Blade Runner 2049 failed to capture.

Worth unmuting.

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