REVIEW: Noah (2014)

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Biblical vision a glorious fantasy (★★★ Directed by Darren Aronofsky)

 

 

There’s a wonderful sense of irony about a plea for rationality and balance in the never ending debate between Creationism and Evolution coming in the form of a blockbuster fantasy film.

Director Darren Aronofsky has waded into the ideological fray, a multi-million dollar budget and a superstar cast in tow, with an adaptation the Biblical/Talmudic story of Noah.

Looking like a cross between Game of Thrones and Mad Max, he places the tale firmly in a cinematic, fantasy context, without undermining any of its spiritual relevance.

When the evils of men have scoured the earth of everything good, righteous Noah (Russell Crowe) is given a vision of the world wiped clean of corruption by flood.

Determined to do God’s will, Noah takes his family – pregnant wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman) – to tap the wisdom of his grandfather, the long lived Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins).

Along the way they rescue a girl, Ila (Emma Watson), whose family has been wiped out by evil men,
and a fallen angel, eager to make peace with God by protecting the chosen family.

An Ark is built and the animals come, two by two, but when Noah ventures out to find wives for his sons, he’s confronted by the grotesque nature of humanity and is seized by a final vision of a world free from human filth.

There are times during Noah that it seems Aronofsky’s whole purpose is to suggest the Bible is no more or less ‘‘true’’ than the stories of, say, The Lord of the Rings.

In fact, the link between the two films is fairly blunt – Aronofsky’s angels look and sound like The Lord of The Rings’s mighty walking, talking tree people, the Ents; there are lost trinkets of power, ancient wizards, ravening hoards of Orc-like humans and plenty of strange animals.

And Noah’s personal journey from believer to terrifying zealot, follows the classic pattern of the Hero’s Journey, a schema for story telling that appears in all cultures the world over.

But there’s a passion for the biblical text and Noah as a heroic figure that’s evident too.

The effect is one of unique balance – fusing robust, exciting fantasy fare with deep philosophical questions about the nature of belief, faith and humanity – that’s truly engaging.

In a scene where Noah recounts the making of the world, the poetry of biblical language resonates beautifully in Crowe’s characteristic rumble.

Yet, it’s coupled with a montage of images of the evolution of life on earth, God’s dictum to ‘‘let there be light’’ looks like the Big Bang, and on the fifth day primitive life crawls out of the primordial soup, evolving all the way.

What makes this possible is Crowe’s deft portrayal of the complex Noah, a driven man who who slips from hero to tormentor to tormented with alarming ease, and an all round excellent supporting cast.

While many of the computer generated effects could have been better – the fallen angels look, frankly, amateurish – the all important flood is brutally rendered.

A fierce watch.

Ultimately, what Noah seems to say is that the science lion can lie down with the legendary lamb; that the power of legends isn’t in the ‘‘facts’’ of them, but in how we deliver the story and interpret the message.

 


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