The upcoming Netflix movie Mute might fix one of the biggest problems with the future dystopias of many sci-fi flicks. At least personally speaking, one thing that's always bothered me about such films is that their worlds are portrayed as so different from ours that they become difficult to believe as real. The real world's strange, little quirks are often passed up in favor of big setpieces and larger-than-life spectacle when it comes to movies, and a place's unique history gets hand-waved for the sake of setting up egomaniac villains and mega-corporations. But according to a set visit and preview in the latest issue of SFX Magazine (opens in new tab), director Duncan Jones' film Mute (coming to Netflix on February 23) keeps the weird and is better for it.
First, there's the matter of our protagonist, Leo. Leo is on the hunt for his girlfriend, who suddenly disappears from his life after an emotional evening. It's not clear if she's been kidnapped, killed, or just ghosted him, but Leo is determined to find out. The mystery meets sci-fi setup sounds like the recipe for a simple Blade Runner rip-off, but there's a major flaw with Leo that should make watching actor Alexander Skarsgard's performance interesting, to say the least.
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His throat wounded by a boat propeller when he was a child, Leo has lost the ability to speak. One might think in a cyberpunk-esque future where sex robots work a red light district that surely humanity would have the technology to repair such an injury, but not only is Leo mute - he's also of Amish heritage. Dressed plainly in a tweed suit while surrounded by futuristic technology, Leo stands out in a crowd. It's a unique part that's evolved quite a bit since Jones first started milling the idea around in his head 14 years ago.
"I was getting frustrated with the amount of exposition in scripts that were being sent to me," Jones told SFX. "Then [a friend] said, 'Why don’t you write a script where the character doesn’t say anything?' So that was the start of it. I thought if I could balance half the story on the backs of the strong silent type and the other half on two incredibly loquacious American surgeons, basically nicked from Trapper John and Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, I might have something really interesting."
Those surgeons - played by Paul Rudd sporting a fabulous mustache and Justin Theroux with a shaggy mop top - aren't the only oddities viewers will find in the richly-detailed world of Mute, though. "There’s one corporation called Volkea," Skarsgard said, "Which is a hybrid of Volvo and Ikea! The Swedes are gonna take over! You subscribe to a carrier like Volkea, then they’ll provide everything from food to medicine and housing - but you’ve gotta be loyal. They’re out in the streets in what’s basically paramilitary gear. They’re sales reps, but look like more like SWAT teams. So it’s pretty bleak."
SFX also describes the set as one containing a flea market with everything from weapons to bio-engineered meat to the aforementioned sexbots and adult toys. However Mute turns out, it sounds like a sci-fi world unlike any we've seen before.
For more on Mute and other fantastical visions in film, pick up a copy of SFX Magazine (opens in new tab) from your local bookstore or news stand, or get a subscription deal (opens in new tab) to stay on top of all the latest film and TV news.