Cary, NC- Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan, The Wrestler) take on the Biblical story of Noah and The Flood.
Aronofsky greatly expands on the story from the Bible by using many sources on the topic, including his own imagination, resulting in a strange, fantasy-like version that never goes the easy route, asking complicated questions while also delivering an intense and emotionally satisfying film. But don’t confuse it with a Bible story.
Crowe Does Great Work
Russell Crowe is an ideal Noah. In the film, he is a man who lives off the land, using only what he needs for himself and his family to survive and nothing more. Once Noah finds out exactly what he must do in order to fulfill his Creator’s wishes, Crowe does an incredible job at displaying his character’s struggle with leaving all of mankind behind in favor of a new beginning.
As an audience, we can sometimes forget just how magnetic a performer Crowe can be. As Noah, he brings a kind of calm intensity, as well as his usual imposing figure. His Noah is by no means an action hero, but he can definitely handle himself when necessary, something that Crowe has been able to prove on-screen numerous times before. It’s a great performance by Crowe, who already has a long line of great performances.
Equally good is Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Noah’s second son, Ham. Ham challenges his father throughout the film. He begs Noah to answer him about why everyone must die, even the good, and he becomes increasingly angry as Noah can’t give him an easy answer. Lerman is somehow able to go toe-to-toe with Crowe at every turn, matching his intensity with an equally potent sense of anger.
Hidden Fantasy Elements
As I mentioned earlier, there is a fantasy element to Noah that has been seemingly hidden from its promotional material, most notably The Watchers. The Watchers are angels who have fallen to earth and been transformed into these rock-like creatures, forced to roam the world with the men they once tried to save. These creatures are introduced early in the film and remain a presence throughout, helping Noah build his ark and protecting him from an army of men intent on stealing the ark for themselves in order to survive the oncoming flood. Aronofsky uses CGI to bring them to life, but it looks more like a mix between stop-motion animation and CGI, resulting a truly bizarre and striking image.
The Watchers are just a part of the fantasy though. The animals that board the ship are also brought to life with stunning CGI, but they are slightly different versions than what we would know today. It’s hard to put a finger on it exactly, but it only adds to the fantasy nature of the film.
Challenging and Exciting Filmmaking By Aronofsky
Aronofsky refuses to tell this story simply. There is one scene towards the end of the film where Noah is arguing and fighting against King Tubal-cain, played by a scene-chewing Ray Winstone (The Departed, Beowulf). Both go back and forth, physically and verbally, about why each is right. Usually, this is where the hero rises above and not only defeats the villain, but also proves him wrong. In Noah though, Aronofsky keeps things grey, even pushing the character of Noah so far that at one point the audience is actively rooting against him. It’s different and exciting choices like these that help elevate the film.
As for the flood itself, the sequence is just as intense and terrifying as it should be. The director doesn’t hold anything back, and for a PG-13 film it is surprisingly brutal. There is no gratuitous violence, but it is bloody and harsh.
But The Film’s Not Perfect
While Aronofsky gets great performances out of his male leads, the female characters don’t have as much chance to shine. Jennifer Connelly ( A Beautiful Mind) and Emma Watson ( Harry Potter) both do solid work as Noah’s wife and adopted daughter respectively, but there simply isn’t much for them to do until the film’s climax.
Also, the film blazes through the portion where the animals arrive to the ark so fast that there’s barely any time to register it. I understand that Aronofsky wanted to keep the focus on the human element of this story, but I still would have liked to see more.
Noah ranked #1 at the box office on its opening weekend, but also has critics of the way the movie retells the Biblical tale.
Honestly, it seems like director Aronofsky has done the impossible. He made a $100 million Biblical epic through the Hollywood studio system and somehow kept his creative voice and very human story completely intact. The fact that the film itself is really good is simply icing on the cake. See it on the big screen and decide for yourself.
Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.