(UK/Germany - 2018)
Directed by Duncan Jones. Written by Michael Robert Johnson and Duncan Jones. Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Seyneb Saleh, Dominic Monaghan, Robert Sheehan, Gilbert Owuor, Jannis Niewohner, Rob Kazinsky, Noel Clarke, Mia-Sophie Bastin, Lea-Marie Bastin, Daniel Fathers, Andrzej Blumenfeld. (Unrated, 126 mins)
After establishing himself as a major new voice in intelligent, thought-provoking sci-fi with 2009's MOON and 2011's SOURCE CODE, Duncan Jones jumped to the megabudget realm in 2016 with the $160 million WARCRAFT, an adaptation of the popular video game series. Met with a lukewarm response from the critics who loved his more brainy earlier films, WARCRAFT looks for now to be a franchise non-starter despite being a moneymaker everywhere but the US. After WARCRAFT and several tumultuous, emotional years of ups-and-downs in his personal life--his father David Bowie died in January 2016 and his beloved childhood nanny passed a year later, and he also became a father with a second child on the way after his wife emerged victorious in a battle with breast cancer--Jones decided it was time to make his long-gestating dream project MUTE, a script he wrote with Michael Robert Johnson (SHERLOCK HOLMES, POMPEII) way back in 2001 and was talking about as a potential second film nearly a decade ago when he was doing press for MOON. Jones was unable to generate any studio interest in MUTE at the time, but with Netflix agreeing to distribute pretty much anything, he finally found a way to get it done with little interference, allowing him to make exactly the film he wanted to make. A Guy Ritchie-esque crime saga in its earliest drafts, MUTE's screenplay went through numerous transformations over the years as Jones would periodically rework it before stuffing it back in the bottom desk drawer until he had more time.
"Moss Garden" from 1977's "Heroes" and the Bowie-derived Philip Glass composition "Symphony No. 4 (Heroes)" making soundtrack appearances. There's shout-outs to German expressionism with one character owning a poster of the 1930 Emil Jannings/Marlene Dietrich classic THE BLUE ANGEL, and a general sense of melancholia that brings to mind what might've happened in an alternate universe where Wim Wenders made BLADE RUNNER. Further showing off his love of even the most off-the-wall German cinema, Jones at one point has Rudd's Cactus--who also carries a large Bowie (wink wink) knife--wearing a gaudy coat that makes him look like Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Wolf Gremm's 1982 sci-fi cult oddity KAMIKAZE '89.