"Marred Morality Tale with a Twist"
What You Need To Know:
SERENITY turns out to be a rather captivating morality tale with a nifty plot twist. The relationship between Baker and his ex-wife provides a lot of psychological and moral tension. The movie’s ending and a speech by Baker’s friend gives SERENITY a strong moral, Christian worldview, but it’s marred by lots of strong foul language, some lewd content, a depicted bedroom scene, violence, and substance abuse. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
The movies of M. Night Shyamalan, such as THE SIXTH SENSE and the current hit GLASS, are almost unique in their ability to stun audiences with last-second shocking revelations that alter their perceptions of everything that came before. The new dramatic thriller SERENITY tries to do the same thing and mostly succeeds, in a tale of a drunk and struggling fishing boat captain offered the chance to kill a woman’s abusive husband for money, but he faces unexpected turns along the way. In the end, SERENITY turns out to be a captivating morality tale with a nifty twist and strong though too brief Christian, moral elements, but it’s marred by lots of strong foul language, some lewd content, a depicted bedroom scene, violence, and substance abuse.
The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Baker Dill, a hopeless drunk who takes customers out on ocean fishing expeditions with the help of his longtime trusty aide, Duke (Djimon Hounsou). Baker’s sloppy drunkenness and rude behavior toward customers has the business on the ropes. When Baker’s ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway), shows up by surprise, however, she pleads with him to help her and the young son they share. She offers to give Baker money if he will kill her new and violent second husband (Jason Clarke) by taking him on a fishing expedition and making it look like he died by accidentally falling into the ocean and being eaten by sharks.
It’s a crazy idea and Baker’s friend, Duke, wants nothing to do with it. He gives Baker a stern lecture about good and evil, right and wrong, and Heaven and Hell as consequences of his actions. At the same time, a different young boy is designing his own elaborate role-playing game inside a home far away from the island, with a story that parallels what Baker is going through and which proves to have serious consequences for Baker as well.
Writer/Director Steven Knight has done some challenging and compelling, yet highly violent, thrillers such as A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and EASTERN PROMISES in the past. SERENITY is less physically violent than those movies, but the anger and frustration boiling beneath the surface of Baker and his ex-wife Karen provides plenty of psychological and moral tension nonetheless. The final showdown is excellently performed and is fascinating to watch as it parallels the revelation of what the young boy has been doing all along on his computer.
Sadly, SERENITY has a lot of strong foul language throughout, though about half of it is heard in the distance as constant swearing against the computer boy’s mother by his stepfather as he beats her behind a door. The violence is mostly of the punching variety, though there’s a bloody shot of a severely injured hand that’s the result of an offscreen beating. There’s a brief sex scene as well that doesn’t show much nudity, but the marijuana smoking and alcohol abuse in the movie is pretty nearly constant.
However, when the movie reveals its actual intent and message, much will likely be overlooked by mature adult audience members in favor of a fascinating final plot twist with a rich emotional payoff. SERENITY has a lot of tension, but will leave most viewers feeling satisfied. MOVIEGUIDE® still advises extreme caution, though, because of the movie’s rough content.