Mute (2 stars)


Derivative sci-fi noir from Duncan Jones, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Paul Rudd

That the non-speaker at the fore is also an Amish bartending whittler should tell you all you need to know about the long-gestating passion project of Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft: The Beginning). With quirks galore but a shortage of substantial ideas, this sci-fi noir cribs from the Blade Runner films ad nauseam – indeed it seems to inhabit the very same world, rendered on the cheap. Darting here, there and everywhere tonally, as it sheds its layers to reveal not terribly shocking secrets it's no mystery as to why Mute has ended up premiering on the small screen.

Set in Berlin, 40 years in the future, it revolves around Alexander Skarsgård's sensitive, speechless soul Leo, who's fond of dolphins, sketching and handy in a fight. He's loved-up with partner Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) but she goes missing after warning him in a variety of banal ways that she's bad news. Lost in a tech-saturated time, Leo must get to grips with mobile phones and even more puzzling devices, whilst tangling with an assortment of Guy Ritchie-level villains.

At first enjoyably, Paul Rudd cuts through the romantic monotony as unapologetic asshole Cactus Bill, an American army deserter and backstreet surgeon who forms a double-act with Justin Theroux's skin-crawling Duck. But Bill and Duck are just two of many such assholes (including those played by Noel Clarke, Rob Kazinsky and Robert Sheehan), with Leo required to suffer them all in torturous silence. The child at the centre of the story is denied a personality, so it's down to Skarsgård alone to provide emotional pull; he's plenty expressive but, shorn of both words and a half-decent context, it's a hell of an ask.

Set in the same universe as Jones's well-liked 2009 debut Moon (better that than Warcraft) and intended as the second part in a trilogy of sorts, Mute doesn't exactly leave you pining for the next instalment. The mystery element is barely intriguing given that it relies on our investment in a love story that's over-egged from the outset. If it's in the main a muddle, the pieces slot together cleanly albeit conventionally, although it's a slog making it to the end. Still, the title is an ideal fit for a film that never really finds its voice.

Selected release from Fri 23 Feb. Available to watch now on Netflix.


  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • UK/Germany
  • 2h 6min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Duncan Jones
  • Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux
  • UK release: 23 February 2018

Leo (Skarsgård) is a mute Amish bartending whittler who goes in search of his loved one Naadira (Saleh) in a futuristic Berlin while tangling with Guy Ritchie-level villains. Like Blade Runner on the cheap, it’s a narrative muddle and the title is an ideal fit for a film that never finds its voice.

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