MUTE

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN -

IN A PAR­AL­LEL di­men­sion, Mute would have been Dun­can Jones’ de­but fea­ture, but in the real world, be­cause of a con­flu­ence of happy ac­ci­dents — in­clud­ing a writ­ers’ strike that freed up the sound­stages of Shep­per­ton Stu­dios — that hon­our went to cere­bral thriller Moon. Jones fol­lowed up with the fu­tur­is­tic Source Code and, af­ter de­tour­ing into fan­tasy with War­craft, he is now re­turn­ing to sci-fi and his long-ges­tat­ing pas­sion project, a tale set in a neon-soaked Ber­lin 30 years from now.

Iron­i­cally, though, Mute (which is com­ing di­rectly to Net­flix) was sup­posed to play out in the mod­ern day, telling the neo-noir story of Leo, a mute Amer­i­can ex-pat look­ing for his miss­ing girl­friend in the city’s seedy un­der­world. But af­ter a lot of “tin­ker­ing”, Jones’ story found its mojo, grow­ing to in­cor­po­rate such hot-but­ton top­ics as the cor­po­rati­sa­tion of ev­ery­day life and, in a con­trast height­ened by hav­ing Leo come from an Amish fam­ily, the tyranny of new tech. Says Jones, “What I found re­ally in­ter­est­ing about mov­ing it into the fu­ture is that when you live in a so­ci­ety that’s be­come so re­liant on tech­nol­ogy, how do you func­tion if you’re techno­pho­bic?” De­spite its shim­mer­ing, state-of-the-art sur­face, Mute is firmly rooted in the past, no­tably a slew of very dif­fer­ent films made be­tween 1967 and 1982 that are rep­re­sented by the film’s sleazy, mys­te­ri­ous vil­lains, played by Paul Rudd and Justin Th­er­oux. “It’s a thriller with a very weird tone,” says Jones. “I’ve said in the past that it’s my homage to Blade Run­ner but, in a way, the ref­er­ences to that are more su­per­fi­cial than the ref­er­ences to things like Robert Altman’s

M*A*S*H, Paul Schrader’s Hard­core and Don Siegel’s Point Blank.”

Alexan­der Skars­gård, who plays Leo, namechecks two fur­ther in­flu­ences. “I didn’t know Dun­can at all — I was just a fan — and then he sent me the script,” he says. “I thought it was such a dif­fer­ent story. It’s a sci-fi but with these very dark film-noir el­e­ments to it. It def­i­nitely has that Mal­tese Fal­con, Casablanca film-noir vibe. Tonally, it’s like the movies from the ’40s, although we’re not try­ing to tap into a spe­cific movie.” Well, that’s not strictly true. Fans of Moon will be thrilled to see el­e­ments of that story re­cur­ring — a sly tip of the fe­dora to the film that started it all. DA­MON WISE

Alexan­der Skars­gård’s Leo seeks his miss­ing girl­friend in a fu­ture Ber­lin. Be­low: Paul Rudd and Justin Th­er­oux are the crooks he’s up against.

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