Duncan Jones’ most recent movie, Warcraft, was a CGI-heavy blockbuster adaptation of the MMORPG World of Warcraft. While Warcraft grossed $430 million worldwide, it was critically panned and didn’t perform well commercially in the U.S., raising doubts about the future of the franchise. It remains to be seen if Warcraft gets a sequel for those reasons, but in the meantime Jones is returning to his science-fiction roots with his fourth feature-length directorial efforts, years after he first impressed critics with his debut film, Moon, on a related project titled Mute.
Mute is a science fiction thriller that has already generated multiple comparisons to a film like Blade Runner. Set in Berlin in 2052, it follows bartender Leo, played by Alexander Skarsgård, as he searches through the city’s sordid underbelly in search of his missing girlfriend, played by Seyneb Saleh. The title refers to Skarsgård’s character, who lost the ability to speak after a childhood accident.
Netflix, the streaming service on which Mute will premiere, has now released the first look images for Jones’ film, showcasing the Blade Runner influences with neo-Berlin’s neon-bleached urban environment. You can read the official plot synopsis for Mute below, then check out the first images from the film in the gallery that follows:
Set in the near-future, Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) is a bartender living in the pulsing city of Berlin. Because of a childhood accident, Leo lost the ability to speak and the only good thing in his life is his beautiful girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). When she vanishes without a trace, Leo’s search for her takes him deep into the city’s seedy underbelly. A pair of wise-cracking American surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) are the only recurring clue and Leo is forced to take on this teeming underworld in order to find his love.
The first image shows Leo loitering on a street outside a building garishly titled: “Foreign Dreams”. There’s also a glimpse at supporting actors Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux, a “pair of wise-cracking American surgeons”. Rudd’s moustache, bloody scrubs, and martini glass make for an odd enough image without considering that there’s a body laid out next to him, its foot visible in the frame. Then there’s Theroux looking anxiously up from his car, on seemingly the same street that Leo is seen waiting.
While the focus is currently on the Noir elements of the movie, these images reveal an eccentricity to the characters which could make for excellent on-screen comedy, with helplessly-muted but physically-intimidating Skarsgård played off against the notorious, rambling comedy of Paul Rudd. Added to that is the low-budget, more personal approach to the film’s development and the fact that it’s been simmering since well before Warcraft was released. This could easily be to the film’s credit, even with all of the highly-anticipated sci-fi blockbusters arriving this year (including an actual Blade Runner sequel, no less).
Moon came out the same year as James Cameron’s Avatar, J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek installment, and Neill Blomkamp’s debut District 9. The inordinate success of these movies couldn’t stifle the cult following that Jones’ first movie earned though, leading to it now being considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of recent memory. The claim that Moon and Mute will be set in the same future requires some clarification however (with fans uncertain as to how the two movies will connect, if at all) but either way, with Jones at the helm, Mute has the potential to be an off-kilter cult classic in its own right.
Mute is slated to premiere worldwide on Netflix sometime in 2017.