At the outset would clarify that I am not much aware of Biblical episodes and have neither fell into the temptation of reading and verifying all facts and myths. So have no intention to compare and debate the actual source from any of its written material to the one that has been transformed on screen. What was more intriguing to me is does this tale hold its own in todays context or is it just another futile exercise by the big studios to pass on a popcorn watch with lavish production and spectacular effects. Fortunately for us Darren Aronofsky is a seasoned hand and he knows to enter unchartered territories of human mind which makes the movie a triumphant watch.
Noah (Russel Crowe) has dreams of an apocalyptic deluge and with motivational aid from his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins in a very brief role); he takes upon the task to construct a huge Ark meant to shelter every living being with two of its own breed.
The Watchers(voiced by Nock Nolte & Mark Margolis) are fallen angels in the form of giant rock creatures discarded by the creator and they help Noah to achieve this feat along with his wife Nameh (Jennifer Connely) and sons Shem, Ham & Japeth (Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Leo Caroll respectively). But as the word goes out along with reflective change in environment, Tubal-cain(Ray Winstone) who had once murdered Noah’s father and is a king among his men leads his followers and tries to invade the Ark leading to a bloody battle before the catastrophic flood takes over earth.
What worked for me is the latter part of the complex human drama that it creates within a tight knight family when Ham(middle son) tries to help a girl to board the ship but in vain as Noah is determined not to have anyone aboard. Ila(Emily Watson) rescued in her early childhood and nurtured as one of his own is involved with Shem(eldest son) and is miraculously cured by Methusselah of her barren status. Noah detests the addition of this new life as he feels his own kin should pass away naturally after completing this burdened task. He wants to slay the newborn in case it’s a girl which leads to a difference of beliefs even amongst his most loving and supportive wife and dutiful son. The secret presence of Tubal-cain in the Ark adds to the muddled and strained relationship with his son Ham further as Noah is single mindedly consumed by the creator’s vision and looks towards the heaven for every difficult answer.
Aronofsky in one of the most splendid sequences from the film displays his visual magic over the craft during the evolution of cells to Adam & Eve and how men slaughter their counterparts in an exhilarating manner. Being fascinated with the complicated character of Noah from his early days helps him to envision his dream project in spite of the controversial alternate versions to Christian audiences by Paramount. And full marks to him and writer Ari Handel for the way they amend the personality of Noah with grey human shades when drown in power during their journey and not only a messiah or hero.
Collaborating with his old associate and cinematographer Matthew Libatique; the images are striking with an impending doom hovering on the screen but also gorgeous when there is faith and hope for the future. The production design and music (Clint Mansell) is in tandem for such an epic whic adds up a lot of value to the overall product.
Russell Crowe after losing his ground in disasters like Broken City, A New York Winter’s Tale and The Man with the Iron Fists is back to good old form with Noah. His protagonist is terrific with brooding intensity as a saviour and one who goes on to become an antagonist in the concluding reels. Joined by Jennifer Connely who was his screen wife in A Beautiful Mind also, she lends her grace to the role. Emily Watson is effective and her character has a solid back story being an outsider along with the dilemma she copes of giving birth; though the same cannot be said about Noah’s sons.
A few points do miss out like the animals and reptiles that crop up on their own and after venturing in the ark is put to sleep during the entire voyage. It would have made for an interesting watch to see their behaviour and animal instincts with each other.
And sometimes it does question some beliefs as if it is worth abandoning hordes of innocent women and children for beasts even though Noah has got a message from the creator.
Noah has to be Aronofsky’s most entertaining watch even though it is dark in texture like his earlier flicks. It challenges your emotion on a broader canvas and one would feel captivated and soaked in its ambition. I certainly did.