When news of a biblical epic on Noah first came out, my thoughts immediately flew to Charlton Heston, Cecil B. DeMille, skimpily-clad women in strange wigs and colourful spectacle. However this is Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) version of the Genesis story. There was talk of worrisome feedback at test screenings and bad blood between Aronofsky and Paramount over control of the final cut. First photographs of the movie revealed a kind of post-apocalyptic look and feel with a blighted landscape and people.
While the film follows the Genesis story, there is a very distinct Aronofsky voice. So his Noah is not the benevolent silver beard of our catechism books. Noah is conflicted, angry, and very human — Aronofsky apparently believed Noah suffered from guilt about surviving the flood. So too Methuselah, who for the oldest man in the Bible, is feisty with a fondness for berries.
What Aronofsky has done is taken these cryptic clues from the Bible and provided flesh and bone to the characters. The film expands on the prickly relationship between Noah and his son Ham. So the fallout of the drunken, naked Noah and Ham seems logical.
This is not to say the film would not resonate for those who do not know the Genesis story. First and foremost, Noah is a rip-roaring action movie with mind-blowing imagery. The flood is suitably grand and those stone angels were way cool. There are some tough, brutal fights and weird and wonderful creatures — all CGI, no animals were used.
Noah, apart from being a competent shipwright and the first man to have made and consumed wine is an eco-warrior and vegetarian — in short a total hipster. Russell Crowe makes for a substantial Noah — with the brawn and tenderness. Jennifer Connelly plays Crowe’s wife for the second time (she played his wife in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind). Connelly plays Naameh (I didn’t know Noah’s wife had a name) with gentleness and steel. Emma ‘Hermione’ Watson is all grown up and plays Ila, the wife of Shem (Noah’s son). Anthony Hopkins is the greatest fun as Methuselah — all wise and twinkly-eyed. Ray Winstone is the villain, a wicked descendent of the first murderer, Cain.
Noah doesn’t feature a rainbow but the pot of gold in the form of a rich, layered engrossing film more than makes up for that.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins
Story: The story of Noah, the ark and the animals two by two
Bottomline: Thoroughly enjoyable singular vision