In more ways than I’d care to admit, I appreciate and adore Netflix. What they’ve done and what they’re doing is unprecedented. They’re able to give filmmakers a platform when the mainstream refuses to accept them, and as a screenwriter myself, I like that a lot. I like what it offers. The future of cinema, while each day looking more and more home-based, remains very promising. Sadly, in this scenario, Mute, as ambitious and well intentioned as it is, sits more along the lines of Bright and the new Cloverfield than it does Okja or Mudbound.
Mute is as ambitious as it is beautiful, even if all the pieces don’t quite align as well as they should. The screenplay, co-written by Jones and Sherlock Holmes writer Michael Robert Johnson, gets off to a tremendous start. After a somewhat underwhelming prologue, we get straight into the action, establishing these characters through clear, precise sequences with fantastic visuals and strong characterization. You really care for Leo and Naadirah’s relationship, while also establishing the set up for her eventual disappearance.
Unfortunately, cool visuals and a decent first act aren’t enough to make this movie work. It was near the end of the second act where the realization started to sink in that “perhaps this film isn’t actually that good.” None of the character motivations make any sense. All of the sub-plots are muddled and irrelevant. The central storyline of a man looking for his missing girlfriend is practically forgotten about for too long a time frame, and we’re forced to sit through repetitive sequences of Duck and Cactus conflicting with one another. The third act tries to tie it all together, but it’s sloppy and a stretch. Plus, the actual reveal of what’s going on doesn’t really add up.
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