There is a lot more to “Serenity” then there initially seems. Secrets are hiding in the shadows and under the surface of the water.
When the new film from Aviron Pictures begins, it seems like a rehashing of “Moby Dick,” a fishing boat captain devoted madly to the hunt for a beast that keeps evading him at the last second.
That captain is Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey). Dill lives on Plymouth Island where he barely makes ends meet as a chartered fishing boat captain. But all he really cares about is the giant tuna fish he has nicknamed “Justice.”
Normally, a movie with this plot could probably be very boring, but “Serenity” continues to evolve throughout, not letting you pin down exactly what is going on until it’s ready. That’s where Karen (Anne Hathaway) comes into the picture.
Karen is Dill’s former flame who has tracked him down to ask for help. Her husband (Jason Clarke) is abusive and has deep mob connections. She is scared for her life and for the safety of her son, Patrick, who is revealed to be Dill’s biological son.
It is here that the film bends from “Moby Dick” into a “Strangers on a Train” thriller. Karen wants Dill to take her husband out on his boat for a fishing trip and not return with him. In return for this favor, she will give him $10 million.
The film follows Dill down the rabbit hole as he struggles to decide whether to help Karen, and by extension his son, or to do what is moral. But Plymouth Island is small, and everyone knows everything. Soon rumors are swirling among the inhabitants of the connections between Dill, Karen and her husband.
But, Baker Dill isn’t the full story of “Serenity.” There are many layers to this thriller flick, and it remains amorphous until it decides to truly reveal itself.
“Serenity” was written and directed by Steven Knight. Knight is known for his Oscar nominated writing on “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises.”
His script here isn’t perfect. Some of the dialogue stutters around and the plot lacks a sense of grace that could have helped this film really stun audiences.
But the core idea is so intriguing that it carries the film through to the end. With a bit of smoothing out, this film could have been even more enticing.
McConaughey and Hathaway give great performances in deeply complex roles. They are giving hints and clues to plot points 40 minutes out before you even realize there’s more to the story at all.
Not much more can be said about the genius of this film without giving more away. It takes a trip through highly praised thrillers of different eras. From “Moby Dick” to “Strangers on a Train” to “Black Mirror” and probably more in between.
Beyond all the twists, this is a film that deals with the gray areas of morality. What is right, and what is wrong in a deeply complicated situation? “Serenity” makes the case that sometimes following the rules is not what’s right at all.