Mute's Ending Explained

Mute Paul Rudd as Cactus in neon

Major spoilers for Mute.


Duncan Jone's Mute is now on Netflix, bringing with it a Blade Runner-esque world with a noticeably down-to-Earth story. The film is a neo-noir mystery (again like Ridley Scott's masterpiece) but told with a major villain twist at its heart and one strange finale. It's sure to cause a lot of debate, so here's our take on Mute's ending.

The main plot of Mute deals with silent bartender Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) looking for his missing girlfriend-with-a-secret, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). Their relationship is a touching one despite his inability to speak and technophobia, but alarm bells ring when she’s confronted in the club where they both work; this begins to unravel a double life she tries to reveal to Leo - who doesn’t want to listen - before she disappears later that night.

Related: Mute Review: Duncan Jones’ Berlin Runner 2049

What happens next is an unprofessional detective story intersecting with sci-fi The Big Lebowski, and one very surprising turn from Paul Rudd. Let's dive in.

This Page: Mute's Central Mystery And Villain Twist Explained

What Really Happened To Naadirah?

Mute Naadirah Body

Leo’s investigation sees him tracing Naadirah’s supposed earlier footsteps, apparently learning of a hidden side-job as a prostitute. However, through a tortured use of technology to track her home, he then learns that it was actually a double, leading to the uncovering of a prostitute ring using girls from the club. This, in turn, helps him discover her mother’s address - and the truth.

Naadirah was trying to get her daughter, Josie, back from Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), an AWOL (and ahole) US soldier and underground medic currently looking for fake papers to get him and his child out of Berlin and back to his homeland. The fence for these documents were the men who accosted Naadirah in the club, and it's that attempt to leave that is at the core of the disappearance; Naadirah didn't want Josie to go. In response, Cactus broke into Leo's flat and drugged the pair, after which he took Naadirah to his house/surgery and killed her by suffocation.

Leo uncovers this with the help of Cactus’ partner-in-crime Duck Teddington (Justin Theroux), who is beginning to doubt his friend's sanity (and affronted by a confrontation about his sexual life, a disgusting element we’ll return to). He uses Naadirah’s phone to send cryptic messages to Leo, providing key stepping stones in his quest.

Mute's Paul Rudd Villain Twist Explained

Mute Paul Rudd as Cactus with a knife

That Cactus Bill, played by never-aging nice guy Paul Rudd, is actually the villain of Mute comes as quite a shock (not helped by the flashback mechanism used for the reveal being confusingly different to other cases). At first Cactus came across as a light-hearted, relatable character with a wry, word-aware sense of humor. However, his turn - or, rather, underlying evil - was established from very early on.

Related: Where Do You Recognize The Cast of Mute From?

Duplicity is at the core of Cactus’ character. He has clear values that create the illusion of morality, but these are almost exclusively self-centered on his daughter’s wellbeing (itself a hint at the murder), with a clear dark side ever present. His career is a shady one, the sadism inherent, and his lifestyle choices questionable (he doesn’t worry about taking his daughter to a brothel because he knows and trusts the madam). Indeed, the only reason he confronts Duck on his latent paedophilic tendencies - a perverse bowling joke made real - is because he sees Josie as a victim; once the air is cleared, the pair hug it out. Once the twist is known to the audience, it becomes even more obvious: excessive drinking is a coping mechanism, a jokey act of theft is viewed with critical eyes, and soon the entire facade falls.

Everything is about him and his daughter. After all, that’s why he committed the murder in the first place.

1 2
Key Release Dates
  • Mute (2018) release date: Feb 23, 2018
Michael Myers Halloween Mask
Halloween: The Real Life Story Behind Michael Myers' Mask

More in SR Originals