director: Duncan Jones
writers: Duncan Jones & Michael Robert Johnson
starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux
genre: Sci-Fi | Mystery | Thriller
released: 23 February 2018 on Netflix around the world
We know Hollywood does have the tendency to make films of lower quality that are unentertaining and that should have never gone through the system in the first place. Now, films of this caliber are also making their way through the online system via Netflix and we the consumer should be grateful that they come as this package deal. As if this kind of film was a separate purchase or rental, it would have been a complete waste of time and money and now its potential value on us is more time heavy, rather than monetary.
In the future the world has gone through some sort of World War or geopolitical power change being heavily influenced by the German language and culture with everyone speaking English for some reason. However, the film never pays this any mind with the story being about a mute Amish bartender who has fallen in love with a femme fatale waitress who is caught up in the wrong crowd. His search for the people who want to do her harm leads him down dark paths of the criminal underworld, where he will reminisce his quieter and simpler past, compared to the complex and technologically heavy dark future he lives in.
When my partner recommended this film for us to see, I had no idea of its existence and plot. Going into it, it rarely made sense in regards to its setting and coupled with the amount of weird and kooky elements it had, you started questioning more than you expected. For one this film didn't have to be set in the future. Its as if someone saw 'Blade Runner 2049' and said wouldn't it be cool to do something similar with intense bright lighting and a tech heavy future. As this plot could have easily been done in the year 2018 and same goes for the mute character played by Alexander Skarsgård and for that matter many of the power dynamic relationships in the film. Also, the fact that they made the character a mute and Amish is really bonkers and never utilized to its full potential. As there was no real need for this and ends up being something incredibly random to say the least. With this mute character never having a real reason to be Amish in the film, as nowhere throughout it do you come out understanding what a Amish lifestyle means or represents. It doesn't ever come into play, except for minor flashbacks of his past that even those seem pointless with the rest of the material that is in the film. Additionally, they aren't many moments in the film where the fact of him being a mute results in something bad specifically happening to him or anyone else. As these situations would have happened even he wasn't mute. It just seems as if the writers were out of ideas and thought making the character a mute and Amish together would be something cool and unexpected, but there isn't anything unique about this character or his arc to make the characteristics special to an audience, instead end up being quite trivial as with its future setting.
Somewhere towards the end of the film, you finally realize where this plot is going and wonder why again is this film still set in the future. With the only real reasons potentially being not only my previous points in it being similar to 'Blade Runner 2049' and the filmmakers being out of ideas, but also the film's secondary character and the need for him to have a connection of sorts to the first (The Mute Bartender). As it wasn't weird enough that they set it in this loud and depraved future, they made it worse by having this character be a U.S. soldier gone AWOL, who has a kid so you can be sympathetic initially to, but no apparent reason why he is who he is in the film in terms of his behavior and professional outcome. So, if you remove the technology and the weirdness the film has it is essentially about a man trying to hold onto one thing that is true and pure to him in a impure society (mute bartender & femme fetale waitress) and with a secondary character (AWOL Soldier) who also has something pure, but still is impure himself in his actions despite of it. Knowing this, the production still made the decision that this film needed to be set in the future, because they probably thought this message wouldn't come across as strong if there weren't flying cars and weird individuals with accents throughout its entirety. They probably thought that extremes were necessary otherwise audience members wouldn't get it and that the modern day examples wouldn't be as potent.
Finally, what makes this all weirder is that you find out that this film was made by Duncan Jones of all people. One of the best upcoming directors of the last decade. The guy who has made some really great films in 'Moon' and 'Source Code' and even did the semi-acceptable 'Warcraft' film that wasn't all bad. How did he get dragged into making this hunk of junk should be a question lingering on his mind. As it will be a stain on his filmography and one of the worst representations and productions of how a dystopian future will look. From the cinematography, to the lighting, to the horrific and one dimensional plot and all the way to people in Germany speaking English and it being a hot spot for the underworld.
Having no real expectations out of this film and then finding out after the fact who made it, didn't make things better in how to critique it knowing fully well the talent and skill of the filmmaker. Not to mention watching some of my favorite actors and decent newcomers in the film, deal with a world and material that is odd and weird in its mixture. How and why they thought this was a film worth making and so close to 'Blade Runner 2049' release shows that some people are out of ideas and that an Amish mute bartender in the future isn't the way to go.