Sometimes telling a bible story on screen is a no-win situation. It’s not like the good book came with a screenplay attached should the work be made into a movie.
And also, some who read the bible as gospel might fault a screenwriter and director for filling in the blanks to create a dramatic film that fills out two hours -- all while still entertaining. Such is the quandary with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah starring Russell Crowe as the titular biblical hero.
Movie Fanatic may be a little biased in that the story of Noah is one of our favorites in the bible. So, our excitement level for witnessing this epic was palpable. And right at the outset our Noah review can state that Aronofsky did not disappoint. It is epic, to say the least.
Aronofsky actually begins his movie with a brief lesson in the chronology of the beginning of man, according to the bible. And it is impeccably important to understanding the scope of his film.
We first meet Noah as an older boy who is about to go through a ritual with his father that will “make him a man.” Tragedy strikes and Noah must run away and live in hiding.
We meet him again (as Crowe) and he is married (to Jennifer Connelly) and has several kids. They live a simple life, keenly aware that if their identity is revealed, they could be killed. Noah has a dream, and it presents him with a vision that God has a mission for him. A great flood is coming and he is the only hope of the “innocents.” And by that, we mean animals.
Most of us know the story from there, but the way that Aronofsky (he co-wrote the screenplay with Ari Handel) paints his Noah story is it plays out as a morality tale of the highest order. Although the film firmly stays in Noah’s world, there is one occasion where he heads out into a neighboring area and it is a horrific scene that certainly makes the audience understand why God would want to wipe out humankind and start again.
Noah even questions whether he is worthy of surviving the flood as his family is the last of mankind.
Aronofsky has truly grown as a filmmaker. Some may have wondered whether the filmmaker behind Black Swan (his most recent film) would be up to the task of the epic of all epics. But he wields his camera with a controlled power that befits the story he is telling. Yet, it is still very much an Aronofsky film and there are visual touches that are clearly from the auteur.
The supporting cast is more than up for inhabiting this biblical world. Connelly is solid as his wife, and gets many moments to shine -- especially in scenes where she challenges her husband.
Harry Potter veteran Emma Watson successfully further moves away from Hermione with her turn as Noah’s adoptive daughter. She too has moments to shine, as does her The Perks of Being a Wallflower co-star Logan Lerman. And Anthony Hopkins shines as Noah’s grandfather. But, then again, when does he not?
Noah is not a bible story in the strictest sense. Some purists may be put off by the dark elements of the film. But, overall, Noah is an intellectually stimulating film that will leave you thinking -- long after the credits have rolled.
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