Speaking for MUTE / by B. Roche

Mute is the long-awaited personal project from Moon director Duncan Jones.  As I was watching it, it felt like one of the worst movies I'd ever seen by a prestige director, down there with Gus Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. 

A few examples:

  • There are several disparate plot threads that don't seem to fit together (and seem dumb and/or offensive by themselves)
  • Why set it in the future? Why Berlin?
  • Does he have to be mute?
  • Why is Paul Rudd so obnoxious?
  • Why is Justin Theroux in a blonde wig?
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But then Mute ended, and all the seemingly random threads tied themselves together, for me at least.

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It's the story of Leo (Alexander Skarsgaard) traumatized as a child (an accident renders him - are you seated? - mute), who develops special coping mechanisms and a big heart as an adult; he is strong and, like William H Macy in Magnolia, has "so much love to give" but doesn't know where to put it. He is violent and lets himself be used. Rudd's Cactus Bill (he's really named Cactus Bill) is Leo's opposite. Cactus is rude and selfish, and never shuts up.

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A bunch of other stuff happens (Mute is a solid, Chandleresque detective story for much of its middle section), and Leo is able to use his strength and ability to hold his breath for long periods to crush a predator, thus bringing his childhood trauma full circle.

Mute was a tough watch, but I admire Duncan Jones' ambition as much as the movie frustrated me. I'll take an original that swings and misses over an IP tentpole that's unerringly faithful to some comic book any day. Another viewing down the road could solidify Mute as a cult classic, or push it down the ranks of shame. But Gus Van Sant got more chances after Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, a lot more. Here's hoping the same for Duncan Jones.

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