Published on April 10th, 2014 | by Brad


Noah – A Film Review

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I don’t even know where to start with this. It’s a long, rambling, occasionally beautiful, often baffling, silly, fantastical, high-concept, epic, dumb, highbrow nonsensical tread through four chapters of the Bible, with Russell Crowe working his way through a variety of hairdos, beards and accents, as the bland underwritten side-characters smile politely. It’s a film of wild ambitions and glaring compromises, a trip into the biblical epics of Charlton Heston and the battle sequences of Ridley Scott, Kabbalah, Eastern mysticism, God and creation, the big bang and evolution, skimming over the incestuous implications of such a small gene pool to work with, whilst showing animals ripped to shreds in gory detail. It’s a wildly ambitious mass of contradictions that’s going to divide opinions like own-brand yeast-based spreadable preservatives.

Darren Aronofsky is a director I do rather like, in the main. Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan have been some of the more enjoyable films of the last 15 years or so. He works at his best with budget limitations and an offbeat, almost avant –garde sensibility. He has some previous in the area of big-budget lunacy, however. I’m referring of course to The Fountain. A large-budget era-hopping science fiction romance disaster, you can practically see the marks where Aronofsky came to blows with the studio. His style of film isn’t built for big-budget blockbusters. But, mess though The Fountain is, it is merely a precursor for what’s happened with Noah.

First, we’ll look at the positives. There are quite a lot of them. First and foremost, Russell Crowe. Beardy, snarling, single-minded in his perceived holy quest, Crowe imbues Noah with an earthy realism intended to ground the more sensational elements of the storyline. It’s a committed, all-in performance that carries the film through several baggier sections. There are a lot of stylish sequences, like the water running through the desert, Noah telling his family of the six days cut against the formation of the planets and evolution of the animals, and the tale of the Watchers and Methuselah. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as said 900-odd year old Patriarch is a lot of fun, here playing twinkly, sly Hopkins, rather than roaring, beardy Hopkins a la the Thor films. The flood itself is a sensational sequence, albeit with one monumentally stupid element I’ll get to in a moment, and there is a narrative choice in the latter part of the film that I found genuinely challenged my expectations and created a real sense of unease. All of this really showcased what a fine filmmaker Darren Aronofsky can be.

Bloody hell, though, this has some issues. Every role that isn’t Noah is horribly underwritten. Ray Winstone rocks up about halfway through as a barbarian chieftain and descendant of Cain, and the film more or less grinds to a halt whenever he’s there. Nothing wrong with his performance, per se, but his presence seems to be an attempt at forcing a conflict to build to a battle sequence, and a mano a mano clash between Crowe and Winstone later on in the film. He also has the monumentally stupid element of the flood scene; the ark, withstanding hundreds and thousands of tonnes of water thrashing against its walls, is penetrated in a small area by Ray Winstone and a hatchet. The rock-bound fallen angels never really work, and the final sequences on terra firma are just laughably bad.

As you may have gathered, Noah’s a mixed bag. Ultimately, for me, it doesn’t work. It’s staggeringly ambitious, and there’s a hell of a lot to admire, but ultimately its reach extends far beyond its grasp. It’s a very noble failure, but still ultimately a failure.

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