By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Futuristic thriller has brutality, sex, cursing.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Innocence, compassion, and a pure heart can triumph over evil. Even in a violent, repressive, and amoral universe, goodness will emerge.
Positive Role Models
Hero is fiercely loyal, courageous, determined, resourceful, and compassionate; unfortunately, victory comes only after he's forced to resort to violence. Villains are ruthless, savage, many psychopathic. Environment portrayed contributes to the amoral behavior of its citizenry. Most women (and some gay men) are portrayed as sex objects. Ethnic diversity throughout.
Violence & Scariness
Graphic violence, brutality, bloody aftermath. Deaths occur on camera. Characters are fiercely beaten, stabbed, tortured, suffocated. Savage fistfights; injuries sustained. Surgical procedures are depicted at length and up close. Pedophile menaces children. A child nearly drowns, blood in water.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Many scenes focus on sex and sexuality in a highly sexualized environment. Partial nudity; revealing clothing. Women are almost all portrayed as sexual objects (e.g., a house of prostitution is frequently visited, a little girl is menaced by a pedophile). Gay and transgender characters appear as sex objects as well. A strip club has robotic pole dancers, along with actual women. Two robots engage in sex with a giant mechanical penis.
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Constant swearing and obscenities, including: "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "t-ties," "f--got," "pr--k," "bitch" "a--hole," "schtup."
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol consumed in bars, a strip club, and social settings. A cigar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mute is a stylish, engrossing film that is part black comedy, part slasher film, and part dystopian thriller, with pathos thrown into the mix as well. Long the pet project of maverick filmmaker Duncan Jones, the film was made after Netflix provided both the funds and the freedom for the writer-director to pull out all the stops in creating a Berlin as envisioned several decades from now: a melting pot of a city, filled with immigrants, AWOL American military personnel, and all manner of sexual exploitation. The city is as sleazy as it is high-tech. Expect many graphic images. Characters are killed, mutilated, tortured, and operated upon with glee by unhinged surgeons. Blood flows; severe bruising is pervasive, characters die. (Spoiler alert: There are bar fights and a knifing with a very slow bleed-out, and a sympathetic character is suffocated.) Obscenities and swearing is continuous (i.e., "f--k," "s--t," "pr--k," "p---y," "a--hole," "f--got," "bitch"). Sexual situations abound; partial nudity, sexy clothes. (Spoiler alerts: An explicit sex scene involves robots, complete with outrageous penis. A central character is a leering pedophile; a little girl is his target.) Characters drink, and the social centers of the story are a strip club and a house of prostitution. Mature audiences only.
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What's the Story?
In MUTE, mid-21st-century Berlin is a city teeming with corruption, untempered sexuality, and violence. Leo (Alexander Skarsgard), a shy bartender at a gaudy strip club, is voiceless because of a childhood accident. He's in love with Naadirah (Seyner Saleh), a cocktail waitress. Their relationship is passionate, warm, and genuine. After a tender night together, during which Naadirah reveals that there are secrets she hasn't yet shared with him, Leo wakes up to find her gone. Distraught, he sets out to find her. Leo's mission takes him into the underbelly of the city. Among those he encounters are two off-the-wall former U.S. army surgeons: Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), who's desperately trying to get false papers to take his young daughter out of Berlin; and Duck (Justin Theroux), Billl's sidekick with some off-putting proclivities. Leo's presence and persistence begin to upset the status quo, especially an unscrupulous crime lord. After a series of mind-bending twists and turns, Leo's obsession results in his becoming the hunted, culminating in a fierce battle between the forces of good and evil.
Is It Any Good?
Filmmaker Duncan Jones cleverly manages to put the dystopian setting in the background and focuses his camera on the dark, sadistic characters and behavior that have evolved in that setting. The future Berlin of Jones' imagination is similar to 2019/2049 Los Angeles in Blade Runner. And like that movie, the "tech" is high, but it doesn't move the story. The people do. And what a bizarre "community" it is in Mute: thugs, sexual predators, torturers, AWOL American soldiers on the run from its wars that never ended, and, most bizarre of all, medics. Justin Theroux is almost unrecognizable and Paul Rudd's fans are in for a shock of humongous proportions.
It's a brutally violent movie, bordering on ridiculous during some sequences (e.g. -- spoiler alert -- a dying man takes several scenes to gurgle and bubble as the blood slowly ebbs from his body). The fact that Jones is able to successfully combine laughs, irony, and a very sympathetic hero with gore, pedophilia, and obscenities isn't to be dismissed. Definitely not for kids.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Mute. How did watching so many graphic images make you feel? Which sequences, if any, do you believe were meant to be so over-the-top that they were funny? Why is it important for families to understand the impact of violent movies on kids?
In the context of movies and stories, what is meant by the term "dystopian"? How is Mute an example of a dystopia? On the other hand, what is meant by the term "utopian"? If you have seen Black Panther, how is Wakanda an example of a utopia?
How does the art direction (sets, costumes, props) reflect the director's creative vision in Mute? How does the director use those elements to help illuminate the characters and their behavior, as well as the mood and culture of the city?
If you are a fan of Paul Rudd, how did you feel about his portrayal of Cactus Bill? Did it surprise you? How did his usual comedic persona add to the unexpectedness of this role?
- On DVD or streaming: February 23, 2018
- Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux
- Director: Duncan Jones
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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