UK Release Date: 4th April 2014
Runtime: 138 minutes
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth
Synopsis: When the Creator opts to destroy the corrupted human race in a flood, he chooses one virtuous man to survive.
It’s been a long time since the biblical epic was a big part of the Hollywood furniture. Ben-Hur and The Last Temptation of Christ are distant memories, but ahead of Ridley Scott’s version of Exodus, the epic is back with Darren Aronofsky taking on the story of Noah. Thankfully, Aronofsky largely eschews preaching in favour of a genuinely interesting fantasy movie.
The descendants of the murderous Cain are ravaging the young Earth, led by Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone). But then, Noah (Russell Crowe) has a vision that the Creator wants to cleanse the Earth with a flood. So, with the help of his wife (Jennifer Connelly), sons (Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth) and adopted daughter (Emma Watson), he begins to build an ark to house his innocent family and two of every animal.
It’s fair to say that Noah is not a conventional Bible movie. It’s more like a lavishly mounted action-adventure yarn, with a grizzled, beardy Russell Crowe at its centre. He’s Noah Decimus Meridius, commander of the armies of the Lord.
| "He speaks to you. You must trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand."
Crowe’s performance is refreshing here, back in his comfort zone after odd turns in Les Miserables and A New York Winter’s Tale. He portrays his character’s inner torment with great skill and is a dab hand at sword wielding. Jennifer Connelly also shines in her underwritten supporting role as Noah’s wife, alongside a teary Emma Watson and a brilliantly conflicted Logan Lerman.
The film’s first hour is a bizarre attempt at quasi-biblical fantasy. Chief amongst the strangeness are a series of “fallen angels” – reminiscent of Lego’s Bionicle toys – who help build the ark. There’s also a strange repeated sequence about the history of Man that plays out like The Tree of Life infused with the sensibility of a disco ball.
But once Noah leaves its odd fantasy setting and parks its arse on the ark, it becomes something very different – a tense familial drama. A monumentally important event causes real friction between Noah and his family as his strong beliefs progress to severe, and dangerous, zealotry.
It is in these scenes that the film comes into its own. The actors are given room to breathe and the CGI is dialled down in favour of the complex characters that Aronofsky is so adept at creating and developing. Due to the lack of biblical continuity in Noah, there is a real tension as to which direction the story is going to take as the conflict mounts.
| "I’m not alone."
Despite its many successes, Noah does have a noticeable weak link in the shape of its primary antagonist, played by Ray Winstone. A few years of work for bet365 has rid Winstone’s voice of any menace it once had, and it feels as if he could break from his threats at any moment to convince us that Robin van Persie is going to score the next goal.
Fittingly, perhaps, Noah is a film that ebbs and flows throughout its rather baggy runtime. Despite this though, it manages to be entertaining.
Except for the bit where Russell Crowe sings. Why won’t he stop?
Pop or Poop?
A potentially bland biblical epic is turned into an oddball mega budget fantasy in the hands of Darren Aronofsky. Solid performances from Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly anchor the narrative, especially as it turns into something more interesting than CGI waves and rock monsters.
Ray Winstone is a distraction and it’s way too long, but Noah is a real achievement that deserves credit for its ambition, if nothing else.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.