In the Bible, it is Eve who is said to have led to man’s fall from God’s good favor. But in Darren Aronofsky’s biblical blockbuster Noah, it is undoubtedly the women that are the film’s saving grace.
While I do not pretend to be a biblical scholar by any means, it is safe to say that this rendition of the Great Flood story was given a fair amount of artistic license. While Aronofsky and Ari Handel held the basic framework of the tale, a man chosen by God to save the innocent before He cleanses the world of the wicked, Noah receives a Hollywood treatment that, in some ways, mimics the retelling of Greek epics we’ve seen in the last decade.
Receiving visions of the Earth’s destruction from God, Noah (Russell Crowe) goes to see his wise grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) in an attempt to avert the disaster. Upon learning that the flood cannot be stopped, Crowe is tasked with saving the innocent – the animals who “still live as they did in the Garden of Eden” – in order to repopulate the world.
Crowe brings with him is wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons, and picks up an adopted daughter named Ila (Emma Watson) along the way. As Crowe and his family work to build the colossal structure that is the Ark, with the help of giant stone guardians that are best described as ‘artistic license’ for fallen angels, they are confronted by the wickedness that the flood is meant to destroy. Namely, the brutal and barbaric Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone).
The world of Genesis created by Aronofsky is certainly a sight to behold. That being said, the directing could be quite abrupt with the use of cuts and time-lapses that occasionally worked against the visual enjoyment. The intent of such effects was clear, but it didn’t always add to the experience. And for those viewers looking to “bask in the glory,” be prepared to sit through a display of evil that can be quite graphic.
Crowe’s Noah is one that may be wholly unexpected for the tale of a 600-year-old man, but suits his style to a tee. Progressing from the original environmentalist to a man with the fervor of Maximus Decimus Meridius, and concluding with a Nicolson-esque performance from The Shining, Crowe brings you to at times hate the man that saved humanity. Logan Lerman does well to provide a nagging opposition to Noah’s total commitment to ‘the plan’ as his brooding son Ham, but as I’ve mentioned it was truly the women that stole the show.
Connelly plays a perfect level-headed counterbalance to Crowe’s ever-changing Noah. Consistently throughout the film, she speaks what the audience wants to scream, and herself tries to save the man trying so hard to save the world.
As Noah’s adopted daughter, Watson delivers a truly phenomenal performance. Stealing the spotlight for much of her time on camera, Watson carries two scenes in particular with so much emotion that the floodgates open in the audience before she even finishes her sentence. The damaged child that comes to be saved by Noah, she is ultimately the savior of mankind.
While certainly controversial, arguably a bit long, and occasionally outright perplexing, the cast delivers a strong performance that makes Noah worth a watch.