ONE of the most interesting developments within the entertainment industry as of late is the ever-increasing amount of original programming being produced by streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

The incredible storytelling taking place on “television” is remarkable. It seems more often than not that going to the movies will most likely result in expensive spectacle, but the really unique stuff narratively is happening at home on the small screen.

That being said, streaming behemoth Netflix has really begun to bolster its original programming by not only providing excellent “TV series”, but also providing feature-length Netflix Original films. This past weekend, I decided to try out the Netflix Original film entitled Mute.

Mute comes from acclaimed director Duncan Jones (who is the son of David Bowie).

Without a doubt, Jones’ most successful film to date is the incredible 2009 sci-fi film Moon starring recent Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell. Jones’ 2016 film Warcraft, adapted from the video game of the same name, was unfortunately a dud.

With Mute, Jones tries desperately to recapture the cinematic visual style of neon noir, originally made popular by Blade Runner.

This style has seen a small resurgence recently, with the brilliant Blade Runner 2049 and Netflix’s own Altered Carbon series (which is worth a watch if you are into sci-fi).

While Mute certainly looks the part of polished sci-fi blockbuster, the visuals alone couldn’t salvage what is a shaky story. Fortunately, some decent performances prevent the film from failing miserably.

Alexander Skarsgard plays Leo, a mute bartender in a futuristic Berlin who dives deep into the seedy underworld of Germany as he searches for his missing girlfriend.

Paul Rudd also stars as Cactus Bill, an American solider gone AWOL, and Justin Theroux plays his brother Duck. Duck’s extremely disturbing and ultimately unnecessary sub-plot is one of the main failings of the film. Some of the dialogue was also pretty weak, which is ironic considering the main character is a mute.

I recently binge-watched the critically acclaimed HBO series Big Little Lies, and seeing Skarsgard’s performance in that show contrasted so starkly with his performance in this film shows just how good of an actor he is.

I just wish he had more to work with from the screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson and Jones himself.

The film ticks off all the right boxes as far as what one should come to expect from a science-fiction infused noir mystery thriller.

The film even has a pretty cool blink-and-you-miss-it scene that confirms that it takes place at the same time and within the same universe as Moon.

Unfortunately the movie feels more derivative than anything else. Overall, I can safely say you’re better off checking out some of Netflix’s other, much better programming.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at tbaymovieguy@gmail.com.

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