Duncan Jones hit the scene in a big way back in 2009 with Moon, a film about a man's three year shift at a lunar mine that only hurts his physical and mental health. It was a beautiful film that was crafted wonderfully by then a completely new director and it also benefitted from a powerful performance delivered by Sam Rockwell. Jones' films after Moon were interesting but all failed in the areas that Moon did not. As Jones continued to make more and more sci-fi films with a dramatic twist, he had a desire to make a spiritual sequel to Moon. Netflix finally gave him that opportunity with Mute. Netflix has been giving more and more chances to directors to be able to tell stories they want that other bigger studios would not, which breeds life to films like Mute and previously The Cloverfield Paradox. It's becoming a changing of the guard in a way as Netflix has become a sort of indie studio. Sam Rockwell's character Sam Jones makes a brief appearance but the film simply exists in that same world that was crafted in Moon. Mute is a beautiful film, yet it fails to say as much as it wants to about love, parenting, and punishment.
The plot follows Leo Beller (Alexander Skarsgard), a bartender who cannot speak due to an accident he had as a child at a huge bar in Berlin run by a questionable man with some dangerous connections in Maksim (Gilbert Owuor). Leo has been in a relationship with one of the most beautiful waitresses, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), and one night Leo wakes up to find that Naadirah is missing. Leo goes into a rage trying to find any leads and eventually everything points to two American doctors that work for Maksim. Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux) have been working for Maksim for years and would be his fixer. Bill had hoped that after enough jobs that Maksim would allow him and his daughter to go back to America. As he did more and more jobs for Maksim, his own moral code would continue to fall to the way side as his only care was getting home.
Duncan Jones wanted to craft a story that worked around the themes of love, crime, parenting, and punishment but he failed to make a coherent story. The second half of the film does a better job of touching on the central themes, but the first half is so slow in building up the story and largely unlikable main character that by the time you get to the end of the film, the audience is lost and fail to care. His biggest failings were that of Leo being not that interesting of a character, and his relationship with the equally mysterious Naadirah make it tough for the audience to care for this two characters. Leo's affliction and Amish heritage are touched on a lot throughout the film as a contrast to how everyone in the film is much more outspoken and often times terrifying. Due to his inability to speak it is very difficult to pull for him or even know how he is feeling besides his love for Naadirah. On the flip side, Cactus Bill and Duck are much more interesting characters and are played by two talented actors, thus making their scenes and interactions between each other much more dynamic. However, both characters aren't very likeable as they do some things that everyone could agree are terrible.
It can be said that Jones made a beautiful film with tremendous visuals. He was clearly inspired by Blade Runner, but Blade Runner had an equally beautiful story along with the visuals. The visuals helped the story, whereas in this it's almost his hope that the visuals are enough to create a good film. Jones has to be thankful for Paul Rudd's turn as Cactus Bill. Paul Rudd is always known to play a nice guy and very likable, but this time he plays against character and this could arguably be his best performance to date. Each scene he is in is absolutely magnetic. He draws in the audience and makes the audience a bit uneasy all the while pulling for him to get his end goal.