Rock The Boat
SERENITY Matthew McConaughey contemplates murder at sea in a tropical neo-noir…
In Steven Knight’s last film as director, Locke, Tom Hardy spent its entirety driving down the M6 in a BMW X5 during the dead of night while intermittently discussing concrete. At the end of the shoot, the British-born writer/director made a vow to his crew. “I said, ‘I promise, the next one will begin: EXT. BEACH.’ Which is what it was!”
Filmed in Mauritius, which doubles for the fictional Plymouth Island, Serenity stars Matthew McConaughey as Baker Dill, a fisherman with an Ahab-like obsession for catching an elusive tuna. Down on his luck, and in dire need of cash, Dill is approached by his glamorous ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) with a deadly proposition – $10 million to kill her abusive husband (Jason Clarke) and toss the body overboard.
So far, so classic Hollywood noir (with added tuna). But Knight leaned into the tropes in service of a story where what you see can’t necessarily be taken at face value. “I wanted it to look a bit like a film,” Knight explains. “So that people are thinking the dialogue is a bit Casablanca-y. I’m aspiring to that. And then see if I could take it
further, upset it, and subvert it, and do something different with it.” He even goes as far as to claim “nothing really adds up”. Least of all Jeremy Strong’s mysterious salesman Reid Miller, who knows far more about Dill than anyone possibly could. “The second time or third time, if you watch it, you’re going to see lots of different things.”
Though a highly prolific script doctor/screenwriter, this is only Knight’s third film as director following 2013 double-bill Locke and Hummingbird, but Serenity is worlds apart from anything he has done before. “If you’re not trying new things, there’s no point,” nods Knight, who was inspired by another storytelling medium, which will go unmentioned for fear of spoilers. “What I wanted to do is look at the nature of telling a story itself. And also, I’m interested in new forms of storytelling… and how people respond to story.”
Named after a real boat that Knight sailed in St. Lucia with a Dill-like captain, Serenity’s many water-based sequences were filmed for real on the Indian Ocean. McConaughey even learnt how to catch tuna for the part, and struck gold on his first go. “We went out on the Serenity to learn the physical process of catching a fish, and I swear, 10 minutes in, the rod went ‘Bang!’ He caught a 200lb yellowfin tuna, and there are photos to prove it,” laughs Knight. “When we came back into dock with this huge tuna everybody went: ‘OK, we’ll take you seriously now.’
It was a quite extraordinary event.”
ETA | 1 MArch / SErEniTy opEnS on Sky cinEMA And in cinEMAS ThiS Spring.
CaTCh a kIllER McConaughey as tuna-mad Baker, out fishing with Djimon Hounsou and Jason Clarke, who plays the current husband to Baker’s ex (Anne Hathaway, below).