Fans of director Robert Altman may feel an intense sense of déjà vu when they watch Duncan Jones’ new science fiction film Mute (out Feb. 23 on Netflix). Why? Because in the movie, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux essentially play villainous versions of the army surgeons portrayed by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in Altman’s 1970 war satire.
“The performances of Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s MASH (pictured below) have always been something that I’ve found incredibly interesting,” says Jones, whose film also stars Alexander Skarsgård. “Best buddies, who kind of see themselves as above and beyond all of those around them — sort of the smartest guys in the room. They’re so entertaining, but at the same time there’s something just a little bit intimidating about those guys. I always thought, Well, what if they were the bad guys, as opposed to being the good guys? Because they so easily could be.“
The MASH homage even extends to the lush mustache Rudd sports in the film, an identical piece of facial furniture to the one worn by Gould in Altman’s film.
“It’s thick with homages,” laughs Jones. “Hopefully, for those of my generation, some people will pick up on them. If they don’t, it really doesn’t matter. The characters were so great when they were originally conceived that the fact that I’m borrowing them, and reinterpreting them, still makes [for] something that’s really fun to watch.”
Watch the — expletive-featuring — trailer for Mute above.