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Film / Mute (2018)
aka: Mute

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Mute is a Netflix original film directed by Duncan Jones, who co-wrote the script with Michael Robert Johnson. The film is in the same universe as the earlier Moon (although there's no direct connections between the two films), and was released on February 23, 2018.

It follows the story of Leo (Alexander Skarsgård), an Amish bartender rendered mute by a childhood accident, as he searches for his missing girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) in a cyberpunk near-future Berlin. Parallel to Leo's story, the film follows the exploits of Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux), two American black market surgeons possibly connected to Naadirah's disappearance.


Tropes associated with this work:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Mute was originally written as a standard contemporary crime drama, but Duncan Jones decided to transplant the story into a Blade Runner style cyberpunk future.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Cactus and Duck call each other "babe" and "honey" frequently, and have many Ho Yay moments. When the two have a sincere, very tactile Friendship Moment in a public place, they're accosted by a police officer. Thinking he's homophobically harassing them, they mock him by leaning into what it looks like and even walk away holding hands. However, it is subverted with Duck when it's revealed he's a pedophile who fancies underage girls.
  • Americasia: Though the film takes place in Berlin rather than the States, it is a very Americanized one with heavy influences of Japanese culture.
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  • Back-Alley Doctor: Cactus and Duck seem to make most of their money stitching up gangsters when they're not delivering Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: The film cuts away from Leo's presumably epic bedpost-vs-roboleg battle with the brawny bodyguard.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Leo is a kind and gentle man, but has a strong instinct to violently protect the people he loves. Not so Amish after all.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Naadirah is dead along with Cactus and Duck (granted, it's pretty satisfying to see them die, but Cactus gains a few sympathy points for his genuine love for his daughter), but Leo finally gains a voice and takes in Cactus's daughter as his own.
  • Black Vikings: Maksim is Russian.
  • Body in a Breadbox: Implied when Leo sees an ominous-looking freezer in Cactus Bill's basement, then subverted when the freezer is empty and Naadirah's corpse is actually just shoved in a nearby corner.
  • Canon Welding: The film takes place in the same universe as Moon, and features a cameo appearance from Sam Rockwell as his character Sam Bell.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Duck specializes in cybernetic implants. In the end, he gives Leo a speech implant.
    • Leo's swimming practice, used in the end when he drowns Duck in the river.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Duck and Cactus use their medical skills to torture as well as heal.
  • Covers Always Lie: One of the posters used in the Netflix navigation features Leo wielding a baseball bat. He never does this in the film, wielding only his bedpost.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Leo takes such a stance when facing Cactus. It turns out to be a ruse, used to simply take the bedpost from Cactus after taking the first hit.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Cactus is stabbed through the throat and left to slowly die, choking on his own blood.
  • Cyberpunk: The movie is set in a Blade Runner-esque future full of skyscrapers, flying cars, and holograms.
  • Cyborg: Cybernetic implants and surrogate bodyparts seem to be frequent, and normal.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Cactus is an unstable, aggressive jerk that also went AWOL and is looking for any given chance to beat or maim someone. He also works as a Back-Alley Doctor for Maksim.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Naadirah ran away from her home, got tangled up with Cactus, had a child with him and worked as a prostitute before meeting Leo.
  • Disposable Woman: Naadirah's purpose in the story is to spark the actions of the hero and villains. She's dead by the end of the first act.
  • Eagleland: Cactus represents type 2 as a crude, boorish asshole that treats every non-American as subhuman, constantly boasts about his home country and never stops calling people communists. His car is painted in stars and stripes, too.
  • Easily Forgiven: Cactus is enraged that Duck is molesting their own child patients, but after threatening his life in no uncertain terms, Cactus promptly invites him out to go drinking when he learns his forged passports are ready.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Cactus loves his daughter, but this love makes him crazy.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Cactus Bill is a racist bastard with a Hair-Trigger Temper that has no problem torturing people to get papers that will allow him to return to the United States from being AWOL, or commit murder, but he's a man who is disgusted enough about discovering Duck is a pedophile that he honestly threatens to murder him if he ever thinks that way ever again, let alone gets close to kids, especially his daughter.
  • Evil States of America: Heavily implied with the fact that the war in Afghanistan is still going on deep in the 2030s and soldiers going AWOL has become an epidemic.
  • Fetish Retardant: Invoked by the robotic pole dancer at the club Leo and Naadirah work at. Sarcastically Lampshaded by Cactus.
    Cactus: That's a real sexy hood ornament you got dancing up there tonight.
  • Funny Background Event: While Sam Bell's court hearing is placed center stage, another early scene has the camera skim past a news blotter that is also displaying details the court case, even mentioning GERTY.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The torture Nicky was put through happens almost entirely off-screen. When Leo releases him, it turns out nothing was done to him aside that cigar in his eye.
  • Homage: Cactus and Duck are an homage to Hawkeye and Trapper John from M*A*S*H.
  • Improvised Weapon: Several are used, most notably Leo's carved bedpost and a stripper bot's leg.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Mute spoils Moon's big reveal of astronaut Sam Bell being repeatedly cloned by Lunar Industries to profit off of him, after one of the clones successfully returns to Earth.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Cactus's love for his daughter drives him to murder Naadirah.
  • Meaningful Name: Cactus Bill is a prickly son-of-a-bitch indeed.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: What Duck claims is his motivation for manipulating Leo into killing Cactus, but is really just a way to cover up the latter's Pædo Hunt.
  • Mood Whiplash: About halfway through the film, Cactus finds out that Duck has bugged his medical office to molest child patients. Cactus has an angry monologue reprimanding Duck and threatening to kill him if he ever goes near Cactus's daughter. Once he's done, the scene is immediately followed by a montage of Cactus and Duck partying together as if nothing had happened.
  • Motif: Leo and water. He's first seen floating in the water after being injured in a boating accident. He's reintroduced swimming in a pool after the Time Skip. He frequently drinks large glasses of water. He carves nautical-themed wooden sculptures. And he kills Duck by drowning him.
  • Nerd Glasses: Gunther, the big, muscled mook, is wearing a pair of those, a bit too small for his head. He even comically adjusts them.
  • Never My Fault: After manipulating Leo into killing Cactus, Duck fervently tries to make him take sole responsibility for what has happened.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Cactus's fake exhaustion from walking three steps to the coffee shop counter goes on for quite some time.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: There are several in the outside eating establishment Leo and Naadirah go to.
  • One-Word Title: The title references the protagonist's muteness.
  • Pædo Hunt: Duck doesn't seem to bother concealing his sexual interest in underage girls. Cactus keeps chiding him for it, but remains his friend.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Subverted. Cactus and Duck seem like decent guys who are forced to work for criminals to make ends meet in Berlin, but each of them is actually quite worse than he originally seems.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Leo loses Naadriah but gains a daughter.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Leo following Naadirah's trail after her disappearance. However, Naadirah died shortly after his attempt began.
  • Scenery Porn: Even in the worst reviews, it's admitted that the movie's visual effects and futuristic setting are impressive to look at.
  • Second-Person Attack: We see the murder of Naadirah through her POV.
  • Skewed Priorities: Cactus insists that his daughter not have any sugary food or drinks, but doesn't seem to mind leaving her in the care of gangsters and prostitutes.
    • Cactus wears a huge walrus mustache and refuses to shave it even to hide his appearance.
  • Spanner in the Works: Leo is just looking for Naadirah, but manages to cause a bad day for a lot of people in the process of doing that.
  • The Speechless: Leo is mute until the movie's end.
  • Time Skip: After seeing Leo's accident, we skip a few decades to catch up with him as an adult.
  • True Companions: What Cactus sees himself and Duck as. Duck doesn't reciprocate.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The film cuts back and forth between Leo and Cactus's tales, with no immediately apparent substantial connection between them.
  • The Unfought: Those three scary bodyguards of Nicky's never move a muscle. They just sit there and look scary.

Alternative Title(s): Mute