26th Feb2019

‘Serenity’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Charlotte Butler, David Butler, Rafael Sayegh, Michael Richard, Robert Hobbs, Kenneth Fok, Garion Dowds | Written and Directed by Steven Knight


The feeling and emotion a cinephile find within themselves when they witness a cinematic masterpiece unfold in front of their eyes is a magical, no scratch that, unfathomable ideal that is an exhilarating and unquestionable abstract thirst and can only be quenched with seeking out more exquisite forms of cinematic sensation. Steven Knight’s latest does not usher such ecstatic reactions. Quite the antithesis in fact. A film comparable to that of Wally Pfister’s twenty-fourteen film Transcendence that explodes on instant impact of release with a tremendous cast list utterly dissipated in what quite possibly may be one of the most diabolical ventures in film in the last two decades.

The superb writer of the sublime Peaky Blinders and director of the terrifically minimalistic Locke is nowhere to be found here. Gone is the deep-felt nature of his subject or the grandiose exploration of character. Even the cinematic quality of both ventures is completely utterly lost on Serenity. A film that collectively falls so completely flat on its own arse, crumbling within the first ten minutes of its running time you can’t help but bear witness to this distinctively obtuse cluster fuck in the nonsensical ridiculousness of just how sincerely it takes itself. It’s a masterclass of tone-deaf narrative and a ludicrous plot that even on an ironic viewing evokes such a sense of an unequivocally substandard defective and ghastly torment you’ll want to pluck your eyes from your head before it is finished.

It’s admittedly fair to suggest what questionable state of mind writer-director Steven Knight was in to produce this concoction of a dire and glib dilapidated product. The screenplay for one is bonafide twaddle. Hollow sub-plots that distract with intense disarray of shallowness. Meaningless monologues delivered in coma-inducing voice-overs that seize to be non-existent the very scene after the fact. It is best described as three or even four films forced to co-exist as one disastrous Frankenstein monster of cinematic proportions. Just in a narrative understanding, the effect this causes is truly extraordinary. Nothing correlates or functions in authenticismor believability here – nothing. Each character is in their own differentiating world but coerced into combining with arbitrary characters from other stray films it seems, plucked together in a boiling pot of bizarreness that simply does not work, with the power of disbelief a distant longing memory.

There is very little here to discuss in regard to the dreadful and none-existent performances. As mentioned above each character is individualised to their own distinctive world and the obvious and obliviously integration is so definitively clear all are truly poor on-screen Matthew McConaughey as lead Baker Dill showcases the most interesting or even sufficiently obtained performance and even that description is a stretch. The depth is obtuse and is layered with such distinctively conventional material it is derivative of any enigmatic late 2000 white male cinematic character imaginable.

Anne Hathaway is arguably the only performer who presumably knows what type of film she is truly in because of the resulting performance she conveys. It’s the films strongest performance undoubtedly due to the simplistic wresting of the misaligned story. Hathaway puts in the exact effort as the screenplay demands, little to nothing, but crafts a character that does justice to the role with at times sincere emotional range. Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou are in the wrong film completely. They add absolutely nothing in terms of depth or character threads but it’s Jason Clarke as the severely over the top and terrifying villain who is done the most damage. The film Clarke thinks he’s in is not the film that was made, and the result is a performance that is executed with far more visceral integrity than Serenity deserves.

However, the biggest cinematic sin Serenity causes is the outlandish and surreal twist of the film. A sin so horrifying and despicable it will cause sizeable cries from any poor afflicted subject witnessing such a discontented film. Said twist is a travesty to cinema. It is bizarrely so overly obvious and oblivious at the same time and if you’re wondering how such a situation is even possible, I don’t think even the greatest of scholars could derive an answer. Yet the most outlandish aspect of this twist is that it occurs with almost an hour left of the film remaining. The resulting fall out is a slow but sincere unflinching unware travesty as the absurd seconds turn to daunting minutes it creates what may possibly be cinemas gravest third act in the history of the cinematic medium.

Serenity is in UK cinemas and on Sky Cinema from this Friday, March 1st.


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