(dir. Darren Aronofsky)
“A great flood is coming! We build a vessel to survive the fall!”
There is madness in Noah. Both the titular protagonist and the film itself shift over the course of the 2 hour and 20 minute run time. What the trailers for the film have withheld is the scope of the film; it’s far crazier and grander than you might expect. What’s crazier than a man gathering animals two by two into an ark? Well some surprises are better left for the film, but I’ll say that the film’s take on angels--called Watchers--is definitely one of the film’s more unexpected explorations.
Noah is daring in the sheer amount of themes it takes on. In that regard the film shares many attributes with Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006). But unlike The Fountain, Noah has one foot firmly planted in big-budget spectacle. Despite some reviews that have suggested otherwise, Noah is not The Lord of the Rings, nor is it attempting to be. But the film is more mythical than biblical. That factor is perhaps one of the more divisive aspects of the film. But the core themes of the story are still there and the religious message comes across in the end, the film just takes a roundabout way of getting there. But despite the plethora of themes and the high-budget, Aronofsky has not left the characters behind.
Darren Aronofsky tells stories about obsession, an individual’s drive towards perfection that offers enlightenment that is often self-destructive. Noah is no different and is a companion piece to the rest of Aronofsky’s work. Noah is the story of life and death, but also a look at the consequences faced when deciding who will live and who will die. Russell Crowe delivers one of his best performances as he transforms over the course of the story. Like Aronoksky’s previous film Black Swan (2010), it is duality that drives the film to its revelations. Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Douglas Booth are strong in their supporting roles. It is in the relationship with his family that Noah is able to exist beyond his Biblical trappings and become a human being who is both admirable and flawed. Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah is an eccentric mystic who mostly exists to drive the plot and add some levity to the story’s dark proceedings. Ray Winstone gives a near scenery-chewing performance as the film’s villain Tubal-cain, but gives the character weight in his desperation to live. He provides a perfect foil to the thoughtful and restrained Noah
Noah is in a way many films. It is an exploration of the origins of life and evolution. It is a message about Earth’s resources and environmentalism. It is a claustrophobic thriller that plunges its hands into humanity’s darkest capabilities. And it is a blockbuster that embraces the fantastic nature of its source material. There is something primal about Noah in its explorations of humanity. It feels as if this story is the seed from which all Aronoksky’s other films have sprung, the beginnings of his cinematic universe with all the rules laid out. While the film may attempt to take on too much for its runtime, the sense that the story is deeply personal is felt. Noah is personal in all the best ways in that it is not only a reflection of the filmmaker’s work but a reflection of us, our past, our future and our mad drive for purpose and understanding in the great sea that surrounds us.