Rotten Tomatoes gives it a laughable rating of 9%. IMDB gives it a better, albeit still low rating of 5.4 stars. And critics are doing what they do best: criticizing. Netflix’s latest sci-fi endeavor, Mute, is receiving terrible reviews. And I’m here to tell you that they’re all wrong.
Unlike most science fiction, Mute escapes the all-too-common flaw of getting lost in the bright lights of its futuristic world. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll see your fair share of outlandish makeup, advanced medical technology, and yes, flying cars. But you’ll also see streets being avidly used by our own vehicles. You’ll see countrysides looking much like they do today, with slightly more futuristic bridges. You’ll see a world not of the distant future, but of the near. It’s part of the film’s allure, but the true genius, and focus, of Mute isn’t its setting, but its characters.
The trick to an immersive film lies less in the plot, and more in the characters. They are the heart of the story, and if we can connect with at least one, we won’t be able to stop watching. We won’t want to. And while Mute is filled with to the brim with some truly despicable people, Leo (Alexander Skarsgård), is wide-eyed, sweet, and pure. At least, as pure as one can be in this futuristic world.
From the very first scene, Leo is easy to sympathize with. And it isn’t long after that sympathy turns to love. Skarsgård outdoes himself with this performance. We’re used to seeing him as an intimidating, tough guy. And while Leo is more than capable of handling himself in a fight, he’s more of a lover than a fighter. He walks through this cruel world not with an overt confidence, but with quiet contentedness. In his eyes alone, Skarsgård is able to exude a happiness and a kindness that can’t help but make you smile. This is made all the more impressive considering he does not speak a word. Skarsgård’s performance is entirely physical, and he’s able to capture the audience’s heart with only mannerisms and actions. Leo is the only one who doesn’t talk, and yet, this doesn’t take away, but adds to his character. Leo shows some of the best of humanity, and leaves it to Paul Rudd’s Cactus Bill to show the worst.
Rudd steps out of his comfort zone for this role. The little comedy that he does provide is dark, and it isn’t an exaggeration to say that Cactus Bill is nothing short of revolting. And though he has moments where he is shockingly understandable, he’s the complete opposite of Leo. He sees vulnerability as a weakness, and uses intimidation to get what he wants. The contrast between the two leads is fascinating. Leo’s hopefulness rubs off on the audience, leading you to want to see the best in even the worst characters. But we learn all too quickly, as Leo does, that people often are as bad as they seem.
The rest of the cast is star-studded, to say the least. Robert Sheehan (Misfits, The Song of Sway Lake), Justin Theroux (American Psycho, The Girl on the Train), Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings), and Florence Kasumba (Dominion, Black Panther) are just a few to grace the screen. Some are confusingly wacky, others are charming, and one in particular will have you cringing until the very end.
Some moments are dirty and disgusting. Others are adorable and breathtaking. Mute asks us to look less at technology and more at ourselves. Almost every science fiction asks us to ponder how technological advancements will affect human behavior. But Mute asks us to consider that both the best and worst traits of humanity are not related to tech, but just simply are. Our villain is not greedy for wealth or world domination. As much as we may hate him, he’s understandable. And as for our hero, he isn’t looking to save the world. Just the one of the woman he loves.
Mute is not an action-packed sci-fi. If you press play for the mystery and intrigue, you’re pressing play for the wrong reason. What makes Mute so memorable, so enthralling, is its wide range of lovable and loathsome characters and the fantastic cast that portrays them. Mute a story of humanity, of love and tragedy. And though there are scenes that would have you weep, you’ll be left with an overwhelming sense of hope, against all odds, when the credits roll. Rudd was perfectly appalling, and I’m thoroughly impressed at how well he played this character. Skarsgård is a vision, and will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. I, for one, hope that we’ll him take on more characters like Leo in the future. Mute is, without question, a must-watch.
Mute Is Currently Streaming On Netflix.