I love year-end season, when everyone is looking back on the last 12 months and figuring out what they loved most or least—or more importantly, catching up on a few things they missed out on. Today, I’d like to bring to your attention a movie that you may have missed, one that I’d argue is relevant to your interests as a Kotaku reader. That film is Serenity, last January’s film starring Matthew McConaughey. There’s a very good reason for this, but if you don’t want the movie spoiled, you’re going to have to trust me.
From its trailers, and most of its runtime Serenity looks like a standard-issue thriller. McConaughey plays a man named Baker Dill, a fisherman obsessed with catching a fish he hilariously calls “Justice,” making money off of fish and boat tours. One day, his idyllic island life is completely upended when his ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) arrives with an insane proposition: Take her current abusive husband out fishing and kick him overboard, for millions of dollars.
It’s all quite ridiculous stuff, delivered with complete sincerity. Even with no further twists, Serenity would make for a good, schlocky thriller. There’s more though—and here is your last chance to avoid its biggest spoiler.
Throughout Serenity, something’s amiss. There’s a man in a suit who keeps wanting to talk to Baker, a man with strange mannerisms and a suitcase with an odd device. There’s also a strange connection Baker feels with his son, Patrick, who ostensibly lives with his mother and did not come with her, but we occasionally see him on a computer.
It all comes together right before the third act: The story of Serenity is actually a video game, one designed by Patrick, who is trying to create a world for a character based on his father—a Marine killed in action named John Mason—where he can also get digital revenge on his abusive stepdad. Baker—who eventually learns he’s a video game character from the man in the suit—then goes into an existential spiral as he realises that he, and everyone he knows, is not real.
I won’t spoil the actual ending, because again: it’s absurd, the strangest and most unreal film I’ve seen in this or any year. Try and tell someone about it, and they will think you’re making it up. I know, because I’ve tried—heck, I don’t even expect you to believe me. (You don’t have to! It’s streaming on Amazon Prime!)
It is also the de facto best video game movie I’ve ever seen not based on an actual video game. It’s up there with eXistenZ in the category of “truly wild Kojima-arse ideas from people who probably don’t actually play video games,” and I love it. Watch it now, and tell your friends. It’s been a full year, I need more people to talk about this with.