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Darren Aronofsky’s film makes a real, successful splash (no pun intended) and should be allowed to take its rightful place among previous big screen adaptations of the more fantastic biblical epics. Every bit as big as films like The Ten Commandments (1956) or Samson and Delilah (1949) were for their time, Noah not only delivers on the spectacle of the events, but also manages to satisfy with the smaller, more intimate aspects and any film that can do that, especially juggling such sensitive subject matter as this or any other from a text like the Bible, is a solid film in my book.
The obvious pieces key to the success of this film aside from Aronofsky himself, are the actors he employs. True, Russell Crowe wasn’t the director’s first choice, but the fact that he ended up being cast feels like a deal maker for the film. Crowe’s portrayal of the titular character is a compelling and grounded one. He brings a gravitas to the project that, to be honest, would only be possible by slightly more than a handful of other actors. His brand of world-wariness and introspection were just the right touch here. The role of Noah carries a considerable amount of weight and though Crowe is no stranger to carrying a picture, this one feels heavier than most of the roles in his career. He, like Noah, manages to shoulder the heavy burden with all the beautifully rich and complex shades of a flawed man.
There are others who stand out too, such as Jennifer Connelly, who is in top form as Noah’s wife Naameh. Her performance is a touching one and manages to be as strong as any of her co-stars. Emma Watson takes yet another step further from the shadow of her Harry Potter past, but she hasn’t by any means, lost any of her magic. In fact, she was quite surprising in this film turning in what I believe is one of her more emotionally challenging roles. She is very good here, a true treat to watch. Legendary Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone are also fine additions to the cast both giving solid performances as Noah’s grandfather Methuselah and chief antagonist Tubal-Cain respectively. Winstone’s portrayal should be noted I felt, because it was not like the average baddie. Rather, he was a character you cared for even in his deviousness. Winstone managed to bring the prideful and wounded aspects of his character to life in a manner that counted. He was a fitting adversary for his distant relative, the chosen one.
Let’s talk visuals now. Obviously, another huge ingredient in a film like this would be the visuals. Anything digitally created for this film looks so good that while you know what’s digital, it does not take you out of the experience. You are completely immersed. The location of where the majority of this film was shot is nothing to sneeze at either. Tell me where on this planet could one go today to find a place that could double for Earth in its formative years? It looks like Aronofsky and his team found that place in Southern Iceland. Not only is it stunningly gorgeous, it is also wonderfully captured by cinematographer Matthew Libatique. It is done in a way that accentuates the beauty of the landscape and feels like you’ve stepped into the book of Genesis. You might think of the film as an advertisement to visit Iceland, much like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films are for New Zealand.
This is a satisfying and timely epic that is definitely worth a look. If for nothing else, do it for the stellar acting talent as well as the spectacle and entertainment factor. It is an honest depiction of a man who has been entrusted by God to fulfill a mission and has to deal with the personal struggles that come with such a mission. What does it mean to be human and question belief in a higher power? The movie doesn’t answer these questions, but it puts us into the very heart of the best and worst of human nature. It presents us with an everyman wrestling with such ideas. We wrestle with him, we ride out the storm with him and his family. We continue to wrestle and ride long after we’ve left the theatre. I did. You might too, regardless of what you believe.