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Duncan Jones unveils his passion project with “Mute”

For about as long as Duncan Jones has been making movies, he’s been talking about trying to get Mute made. This weekend, at long last, Jones will see his passion project revealed to the public, as the film is about to stream on Netflix. There was an embargo in place until today, so I can now chime in and say this is Jones at his weirdest. That’s a good thing too, as he’s mixing the world he created with Moon, the aesthetics of Blade Runner, and a number of other influences into something you won’t easily forget. Jones clearly loves science fiction, and it shows here.

The film is a sci-fi mystery, taking place within the universe first explored in Moon. Here, Berlin is the setting. It’s on the harder side to describe this one, but I’ll let IMDb (with a slight tinker by yours truly) start things off: “Berlin. Forty years from today. A roiling city of immigrants, where East crashes against West in a science-fiction Casablanca. Leo Beiler (Alexander Skarsgard), a mute bartender has one reason and one reason only for living here, and she’s disappeared. But when Leo’s search takes him deeper into the city’s underbelly, an odd pair of American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) seem to be the only recurring clue, and Leo can’t tell if they can help, or who he should fear most.” That’s a solid start to a very odd movie. Jones directs and co-writes here with Michael Robert Johnson. As for the cast, besides Rudd, Skarsgard, and Theroux, we have the likes of Noel Clarke, Dominic Monaghan, Seyneb Saleh, and perhaps even a cameo from…Sam Rockwell. Gary Shaw handles the cinematography, while Clint Mansell contributes yet another top notch score.

Netflix has this movie, and while that’s a good way to get it out into the world, it’s a shame that people won’t be seeing this one on the big screen. At the same time, it makes sense why studios weren’t lining up to finance Jones’ vision. This is a dark and sometimes disturbing film, though at others, it’s oddly humorous. It 100% feels like a passion project, the sort of thing that was written when a filmmaker was younger and angrier. It never comes to the heights of Moon, but it’s on par with Source Code. Skarsgard is very effective in his silent role, while Rudd is interesting to watch play against type. Again, it won’t be for everyone, but it’s something strangely compelling to watch.

This is how I would rank Jones’ filmography so far:

1. Moon
2. Mute
3. Source Code
4. Warcraft

Between this and Annihilation, this week is a special one for science fiction. I’ve already raved about the former a few days ago, so now you’ve got this one to take in as well. Alex Garland is an evolving voice in the genre, while Jones has long been sort of a cult figure. These two bringing unique visions into the world on the same day is kind of a blessing for sci-fi fans. February normally caters to genre fans in the worst way, so this kind of change of pace should be appreciated. Perhaps it’ll become the norm, but right now, it’s still a great little aberration.

Starting today, Mute is available to watch on Netflix, and likely will find a larger audience because of it. The money being thrown around by the streaming service is why this finally got made, so that overall is a positive. While it looks good on a laptop, it does feel like a shame that it’s not going to be seen on the big screen. Regardless, this is a strong film and worth seeing. Some will undoubtedly hate it, but I kind of loved it. Take it from me and give it a look. As an added bonus, you don’t even need to leave the house to do it…

Be sure to check out Mute, streaming on Netflix right now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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