Synopsis: After a quick recap of Old Testament highlights we meet Noah, the last descendant of Adam and Eve’s son Seth. The world he lives in is a dangerous place, ruled by Cain’s bloodthirsty bloodline, but Noah (Russell Crowe) and family (Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll) live as nature-loving, proto-hippies. That is, until Noah has an— apocalyptic dream. Consulting with his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), he determines The Creator wants him to build an ark and laden it with two of every creature in advance of a great flood that will destroy mankind and the violence they perpetrate. But Noah will have to make some troubling decisions to fulfill God’s will.
• Richard: 3/5
• Mark: 4/5
Richard: Mark, the best way I can describe Noah is emotionally ambitious. It takes a familiar story and shines a new light on it by highlighting Noah’s spiritual quandary. In the film — which takes liberties with the biblical story — he’s a vegan prophet who grapples with doing God’s will while balancing the needs of all of humanity, particularly his family. The meaning of faith and the consequences of adhering to that faith are the film’s main thrust, but as interesting as that is, the movie feels like one thing when it is addressing the spiritual and quite another — possibly a Lord of the Rings movie — when it is in action movie mode.
Mark: Richard, I queasily bought the transition from religious allegory to action pic because I admired the tone and quality of the movie. I shuddered when I first heard about the picture, but then got interested when I found out Aronofsky was directing. Unlike most biblical epics, the dialogue isn’t embarrassing and the lead actor isn’t over the top.
RC: It’s not your father’s biblical epic, that’s for sure. This is an art-house epic that filters the story through Aronofsky’s impressionistic style. Some may criticize the movie for not being reverent enough, but I thought he treated the story as a living, breathing thing and not an artifact from another time. But having said that, Aronofsky moves in mysterious ways. He shot the epic almost entirely in close-up, and the flood scene could have used a bit more Cecil B. DeMille.
MB: He also indulged in some sci-fi flourishes I don’t remember from the Bible! But I accepted them as part of the world of wonder when the Earth was a pre-prehistoric place. The movie has a strong environmental message and also feels critical of doctrinaire religious fundamentalism. Noah, at the end, almost makes a choice that only a deranged religious kook would make. Speaking of which, what did you think of Russell Crowe?
RC: Crowe’s been in a bit of a slump in recent years. The dangerous, complex actor of movies like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind seemed to have taken a backseat to the performer who thought making The Man with the Iron Fists was a good idea. Noah is a nice reminder of Crowe’s delicate mix of fearsome masculinity and subtle sensitivity.
MB: I thought he was wonderfully restrained in the part even when he was deranged with fervour. My only complaint is that the movie peaks too soon. I guess there’s a bit of a problem with the story… arc.