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Review: ‘Serenity’: Leaves One Pondering Fiction vs Reality

Photo credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

Serenity makes viewers believe they are walking into a pure thriller. In many ways, I imagine this film as the love child of Christopher Nolan and M. Night Shyamalan. The film is beautifully shot and the twists are there, but they are convoluted and will leave most viewers wondering what they just watched by the time they leave theaters. The film focuses on Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), a fishing boat captain, who finds himself in a life where he is barely scraping by but insists on hunting for the fish that managed to get away. A tuna to be more exact.

Instead, he finds himself entangled with his past and discovering that everything around him is not quite what it seems. While he attempts to discover the secrets lurking within Plymouth Island, he slowly begins to unravel as the events around him put his sanity to the test and make him begin to debate what is real and what is fictional. Will he do what is right or will he need to fight his inner demons just below the cusp of the ocean waves he lives his life by?

Photo credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

After a year of what appeared to be back to back blockbusters in many instances, Serenity demands the viewer’s attention to detail. Many nuances are riddled throughout the film which the viewer loses if they even blink. As McConaughey’s character remains on the verge of believing he is crazy audiences begin to wonder if Dill is crazy. Viewers tumble back and forth between what is reality and what is fiction as we desperately try to piece together a puzzle that seems to be missing a few pieces here and there. Some oddly specific dialogue makes us, along with Dill, wonder if we just heard the other character right.

We are disgusted by others such as Frank Zariakas (Jason Clarke) and immediately want to protect Duke (Djimon Hounsou). To make matters worse, numerous townspeople leave us feeling that they are painfully out of place. I do enjoy that audiences are transported to a simpler time where everyone knows everything about each other. The small town element is oddly comforting in some instances, but deeply troubling in other instances. Ultimately, the problem with the townspeople knowledge is that it inevitably begins to feel like the worst game of telephone ever.

Photo credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

The true downfall of Serenity is not the film’s overly ambiguous nature. When details about the past shared by Dill and Karen Zariakas (Anne Hathaway) arrive the obvious age gap between the two actors leave actors wondering how anything Hathaway is saying makes any sense. How could these two people have grown up together? While that gap is later explained, there’s a part of me that wishes that Diane Lane played Anne Hathway’s role and vice versa. I’m not sure even that could have saved the film or if that would have merely left Hathaway as underused as Lane.

Similar to other films of the past, Serenity suffers from good actors and a script that attempts to bring us the intelligence of Inception but fails with its intended complexity. However, unlike Inception, we are not left wondering whether the totem is still spinning or if it falls. The ending is not overly complicated but instead attempts to bring out the character’s inner peace as well as viewers. After all, audiences go on an emotional roller coaster ride with Dill and by the time we leave we are oddly glad we stayed in our seats the whole time as not to leave utterly confused. If not we might have become chum for a nearby shark.

Photo credit: Graham Bartholomew / Aviron Pictures

Serenity entices viewers to remain in their seats once the credits begin to role and audiences have pieced together a story that will leave them speechless.  Whether or not they are speechless because of their sock for the twist or the fact that they truly want to digest the film they spent the last almost two hours viewing.  Regardless of whether or not you enjoy Serenity, the film forces you to think about the feature long after one leaves the theater.  While that cannot be said for many films these days, unless they are to share a sneak peek at an upcoming Marvel film, most viewers will leave the theater wondering what happened to the thriller they desired to see upon viewing the initial trailer instead.