Serenity Review – A Modernized Noir Thriller With All the Right Bait

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Serenity, from Aviron Pictures, presents a modernized noir thriller complete with the femme fatale in need of rescue, the jilted ex, the abusive new husband, heartache, justice and freedom and building a life created out of circumstances.

Directed and written by Steven Knight, Serenity stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Jeremy Strong, Rafael Sayegh, Charlotte Butler, David Butler, and John Whiteley.

Serenity begins on a charter boat in the middle of nowhere, two day fishermen, sleeping it off from too much sun and too much beer, when the line begins to slowly tick, then faster until the boat’s captain Baker Dill, played by Matthew McConaughey, grabs the rod and begins to play the game.

The fish, a tuna worthy of the record books and one of the most difficult to reel in, pulls him and he wrestles back taking a little ground, reeling in the majestic and challenging tuna begins to take its tool, sweat dripping, arms like overcooked spaghetti, the line suddenly becomes manageable. Somethings wrong. No fight, from below. Pulling the massive fish closer, his first mate, Duke, played by Djimon Hounsou, pulls the wire, ready with the hook, they see it, and in a flash the fish was gone.


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A stop over with Constance, played by Diane Lane, secures his first mate gets paid. Figuring one shot would cut the injury his pride was feeling he heads over to the only pub on this side of the island.

The bartender tells him he may have better luck if he named the elusive and mighty fish that’s hooked him which is when we find out; Baker Dill has been injured somewhere and he wants justice, which turns out to be the most challenging fight of his life and the name he gave the tuna.

As in most noir films, through the haze of a smoky train platform or modernized the mental haze of too much booze, the femme fatale emerges. This is where we meet Karen, played by Anne Hathaway, a sultry hello, a Benjamin on the bar, and the chemistry ignites.

We see this is one women that Baker decides its best to run from, leave, flee, get away. Do not entertain the thought, memory, hope for even one moment, as some memories are best left alone. Resurrection doesn’t always led to freedom.


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No matter the effort the passionate reunion hits all the right notes as she moves first, following offering the apologies, the admissions, the feelings without reservation. Even through the midnight fog, Baker understands this women is dangerous.

After meeting Karen we meet her husband Frank, played by Jason Clarke, from all appearances, the perfect couple. They are both perfectly dressed and styled, the cover shot of success, happiness. Underneath, behind closed doors, we find he is a violent abuser, she repeatedly victimized, beaten until her skin is raw.


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With the ultimate plea presented, and the usual response, Karen plays one last ace, and the film moves into the second act.

Serenity is like a perfect angler, it has all the right bait to pull the audience into its deep and intense story.

Hypnotized by the perfect idyllic setting, sun bleached beaches, cloudless azure blue skies, crystal clear waters, horizons that gone on forever coupled with an off the grid existence, primitive landline telephones, barely any electricity, a drop out, Margaritaville type lifestyle pulls like the experienced fisherman.

And like fishing one never knows what lies beneath the surface. The film plays on dualities throughout. We find, instead of peaceful man, a tortured soul driven and exasperated.

Serenity hides its real meaning from the beginning. It is in reality two films. The film visualized, the hidden tropical island, the dad who loves his child unable to be with him, escaping to nowhere to ensure he is never found, the pleasures, the moments, the vastness of the horizon is playing out.


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The fueling storyline, under the surface, is a world created by a frightened, lonely, and abused child. An IT super brain who in order to escape his abusive home life, where daily he hears his mother’s screams as she is beaten repeatedly by his stepdad who isn’t satisfied by simply torturing his wife, he moves on to her child proving the one thing she has left of her perfect life, the life he doesn’t care to give her, she can’t protect.

The cinematography is stunning of course. The tropical setting also sets the tone for local flare and flavor. Even with the shocking ending the films works.

Serenity presents a mystery of lives, what life is and what it could be. The need for rescue, each looking to the time when life was good, perfect, and building a new life, the perfect life where control is in the hands of good and evil has departed forever.

Serenity opens January 25, 2019. See it.

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