Sunday, 30 March 2014

Film Review: Noah

Noah? I barely knew her! Heh.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's get on with it shall we? Here is my review of Darren Aronofsky's take on the Biblical epic, Noah. And don't fret, it's better than Evan Almighty

Where's Morgan Freeman when you need him, eh?
Based on the Biblical fable of Noah's Ark, this 'historical' epic from visionary director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) has a glittering cast, starring Russell Crowe as the titular builder-of-arks, Jennifer Connelly as his wife Naameh, Douglas Booth and Logan Lerman as his sons Shem and Ham, and Emma Watson as Shem's wife, Ila.

The first thing I have to note about Noah is the narrative. Going off what I saw in the trailer, I was expecting a fairly conventional, run-of-the-mill adaptation of the Noah story we are familiar with.

This however, is not really the case. First off all, Aronofsky injects a lot of individuality into the story, with the flood forming the mid-point of the story, rather than the finale. The film also makes a point to present a version of the story that doesn't stick solely to what the Bible says - hardly surprising given that Aronofsky (who also wrote and produced the film) is a firm atheist. There is no mention of 'God' or 'the Lord' - only 'the Creator', a suitably ambiguous tag. There is an injection of supernatural elements (rock monsters/fallen angels - 'the Watchers) and also a raft of evolutionary and Darwinian discourse.

"If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain..."
Does this belittle the film? Not in the slightest. The artistic license that Aronofsky takes with the fable is surprisingly captivating - where he takes the story is satisfyingly unique and enough to set the film apart from a more generic adaptation. Aronofsky almost presents the film as a post-apocalyptic/cautionary tale in reverse, from doom and despair to idyllic haven through chaos and turmoil. It is unlike other contemporary blockbusters, with a lot more complexity behind it than other big-budget doomsday films like 2012 or Transformers.

Something that did strike me about this film however was how dark and grim it got at times. Granted, it is about the end of the world, but I hadn't expected the film to branch into unsettling psycho territory as it did. Like I said, the flood is really just the mid-point of the film, with the characters being left to deal with the aftermath and consequences of what they helped carry out in the final third. It's here that Noah steers itself into stormy seas, as Noah himself becomes the main villain of the piece.

Once trapped inside the Ark, Noah becomes further consumed by the mission the Creator sent him, and threatens to hurt those around him in the process. Without giving too much away, his character veers violently into villainy, and as a result, I found it hard to sympathise or even root for him at this point. No matter how divine his right, Noah wasn't a likeable character for the most part, making the film an unenjoyable experience at times. I found myself searching every other supporting character for someone to root for, landing eventually at the duo of Booth and Watson.

In terms of acting, there is little you can fault Noah on. Despite his character being scary at times, Crowe is fantastic, as is Connelly. Crowe brings a performance that is raw and fierce, a proverbial thunderstorm alongside the literal one outside the walls of the Ark. Their central coupling is supported by a trio of great performances from youngsters Booth, Watson and Lerman. It is was great seeing Lerman in something decent other than Perks of Being A Wallflower - he's a great young actor whose role in Percy Jackson doesn't do him justice. He gets side-plot here that showcases some of that potential.

Emma Watson is once again fantastic
It's Emma Watson that really shines in her role as Ila. Judging by the trailer, I half-expected Watson to have a fairly small role, akin to her brief cameo in This Is The End. In Noah, Watson's character grows to be as important as Crowe's, with her, Booth and Crowe sharing some pretty dark and haunting scenes. She was, as always, fantastic, a real highlight in an already impressive cast of performances. Also, Anthony Hopkins was great as Methuselah, grand-father to Noah. His character added a surprising amount of levity to the film.

In terms of scope, and execution, it is hard to criticise Aronofsky's vision. He presents a film that not only covers Noah's Ark, but also the whole of Creation and the Garden of Eden. One sequence, where the 'seven days' are literally translated into the evolution of the world over thousands of years in super-fast speed is fascinating, and really well thought-out.

In terms of pacing, I found that the final third (wherein things take a sinister turn aboard the Ark) hard going. I can see where Aronofsky was trying to take the film, and kudos to him for making the fable his own, but I preferred the first half of the film. Just my personal opinion really.

The Verdict: 6/10

I'm not sure what to think about Noah. On the one hand, the acting is great, the film-making is great, the scope is unquestionably massive - credit where credit is due, the film offered a intriguing curve-ball to typical generic blockbusters.  But on the other hand, I didn't enjoy the film as much as I thought I would. There were immensely dark and disturbing moments that gave me an odd sinking feeling. 


  1. Nice review. I, too, liked the direction Aronofsky took with this story, and the acting was phenomenal throughout. Ain't Emma great? XD

    1. I know right? Who doesn't love Emma? Thanks for commenting Chris!

  2. Nice review. The film itself is executed relentlessly well. It's just that its morals get caught-up in a bit of a twist.

    1. Exactly! The film making was excellent, I just thought it got a little too dark at times. I think a lot of people (unfamiliar with Aronofsky) will go into this expecting something simple and not so edgy. Whether that is a positive or not, I'm not sure. Thanks for commenting Dan! :)



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