Gimme that old time religion – ★★★
When it was announced that Darren Aronofsky’s next film would be a familiar Bible story by the name of Noah, there was much head scratching. How would the director of such unsettling and varied works like Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan handle one of the most famous stories ever told? Quite well, all things considered, and with enough of his own flair.
Noah (Russell Crowe), after seeing his father being killed, escapes to live a life at one with nature and his family, steadfast in his resolve to stay away from the evil city dwellers. He begins to have visions from God and consults his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who gives him some herb which makes Noah realise he must build an ark and save the animals of the world – for they still live as they did in the garden of Eden. With the help of the Watchers, (fallen angels who the creator turned to stone for disobeying him, think stone transformers meets Rockbiter from The Never Ending Story), Noah goes about building his ark.Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) hears of the impending flood and demands to be let on Noah’s ark and when his command is not obeyed he makes it his mission to destroy it.
There are many Aronofsky motifs visible in Noah, most notably the mental struggle of man as he grapples with his actions. Noah is tormented by what he must do, forsaking all of mankind in obedience of his creator. Let’s not forget that this is the old testament God, one of fire, brimstone and loyalty, not so much his hippie son’s message of love. Noah is driven to the brink of madness in pursuit of his goal, much like Maximillian Cohen in Pi or Natalie Portman in Black Swan. In the animation segments and vision quest moments we are reminded of some of the many chilling sequences from Requiem for a Dream.
The major difference in this film from his previous work is the sheer scale of the piece. This is epic in every sense of the word. A film that is much more easily told due to the advances in CGI. This is a film from a bygone age, today we still have epic movies in the sense of Avatar or The Hobbit, but this has the religious element. Like Ben Hur or The Greatest Story Ever Told this has a source material that the vast majority of people know about. This leaves it open to criticism from religious groups, believers and non-believers but you must look at it from the point of view of a story. In this regard it is well told and entertaining.
Where the film falls down is on the boat, here the moral dilemma of Noah is pushed too far and it harks back to that old religious adage of how women are inferior and the basis of most evil, with men being pretty awesome. This is quite hard to stomach and takes away from the film.
Anthony Hopkins might actually find a rewarding film role some time soon and Ray Winstone continues to play “the daddy” a role he started with over 30 years ago in Scum. Logan Lerman feels underused as Ham, one of the more complex characters the father-son issues although seen many times before are rushed. The main performances are all sufficiently adequate, the fault lying more with the dialogue. Crowe plays to form; deep, intense (sometimes angry) man has deep intense thoughts and is angry (sometimes).
Like Gravity, Noah should be seen on the biggest screen possible for the most immersive experience. It feels that the film would have been better served sticking to childrens’ story mode focusing on the flood and animals and less time on the family drama that plays out for the last forty minutes.
Released in cinemas across Ireland on April 4th 2014