The film looks like a well-deserved and fitting next step for Duncan Jones and Alexander Skarsgård.
Less than a month before it debuts on Netflix, the first trailer for Mute has arrived. The film is set in Berlin, roughly 40 years in the future. It stars Alexander Skarsgård as Leo Beiler, a mute bartender who ventures into the city’s seedy underbelly to search for his missing girlfriend. Once there, he finds that two American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) are his only reoccurring clues.
Director Duncan Jones has said the film draws influence from Casablanca and Blade Runner. He’s also described it as a spiritual sequel to his directorial debut from 2009, Moon. No spoilers for Moon, but that indicates there’s more than meets the eye in this film about one man’s quest to be reunited with someone he cares about. This film also looks to be an ideal next step forward in the careers of Jones and Skarsgård.
For Jones, Mute comes on the heels of 2016’s critically disappointing Warcraft. This collaboration with Netflix allows him the freedom to work with an original story that, although set in the future, is still in the world we know, something he did with Moon and his 2011 film, Source Code.
The subject matter and style of the film strikes a comparison to Jones’ previous work. Moon, a story about one man’s solitary existence working on the far side of the moon, emphasized isolation through open space. In this first look at Mute, futuristic Berlin is bustling with people, but Jones emphasizes Leo’s feelings of being on his own even with other people around him. His girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) tells him prior to her disappearance that he doesn’t know her. Although Rudd and Theroux’s characters are involved with Leo’s search, they also appear to have some sinister ties to Berlin’s criminal underworld. From the looks of it, Leo has very few people who he has connected to, and even fewer he can trust.
Based on the trailer, Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly well suited to this film. One of Skarsgård’s strengths as an actor is his ability to weave between menacing aggression and endearing likability. This skill was on full display during his time on True Blood, and in his supporting roles in films such as Straw Dogs and The East. It was essential for his award-winning work on Big Little Lies in order to convey how his character, Perry, was able to charm the women around him and conceal his true nature from them. In Mute, Skarsgård’s Leo is seemingly the hero on a quest to find his missing girlfriend, but with the comparisons to Moon and Blade Runner in mind, it’s only to be expected that there will be more to the story than what the trailer reveals and more to Leo than what his surface indicates. Wherever the narrative takes Skarsgård, he’ll no doubt be able to keep up with it.
Mute will also see Skarsgård working with a director who knows how to bring out the best from his actors. Sam Rockwell’s performance in Moon received universal acclaim and reviews of Source Code highly praised Jake Gyllenhaal’s work in the film. Although Skarsgård has shown off his acting chops in a number of supporting roles, he isn’t exactly known for any of his leading performances. His most recent was the critically and commercially unremarkable Legend of Tarzan. Working on an original story from Jones in a role as a mute character should provide Skarsgård with a challenge, but with his talent, he’s more than equipped to rise to the occasion.
Mute will debut on Netflix February 23, 2018.