Noah (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, and starring Emma Watson, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand, Barry Sloane, Mark Margolis, Anne Bergstedt Jordanova, Marton Csokas, Madison Davenport, Ray Winstone, and Sami Gayle.
Discussion leading up to Noah, both in media and among potential patrons, has been dominated by fears that the artistic liberties taken by Darren Aronofsky – and there are many – would somehow undermine what many believe to be a true story from the Bible about God’s will for his creations. Those fears couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sure, Aronofsky takes artistic liberties in his latest film – its avoidance would be impossible for any filmmaker. Some make more sense than others; some work better than others. But, in the end, one walks out of the theatre feeling entertained and, even more importantly, touched and inspired – even if one is not necessarily a believer in the literal story as written, or even a Christian for that matter.
The film begins with an unnecessary written prologue that merely confuses the audience due to the inclusion of an initially jarring exercise of artistic license, with little explanation, that starts the film off on awkward footing. Apparently, “The Watchers” – giant rock formations that resemble ancient Transformers – aided Cain in spreading evil throughout the world like a cancer after he killed Abel. (Believe it or not, Aronofsky is able to satisfactorily reconcile this seemingly “what was he thinking?!” concept with creativity that honors the spirit of the biblical tale.)
After this confounding start, the film slides into a familiar groove as Noah (Russell Crowe) starts to experience repeated dreams of a world underwater.
Though frequently episodic, the editing is no doubt a wise use of time that allows Aronofsky to focus on character relationships while simultaneously avoiding mundane and pointless scenes. For example, the audience never witnesses the actual beginning (or duration) of the ark’s construction; rather, one scene ends with a shot of sprouting trees and the next starts with the ark nearing completion, animals flocking to the monolithic structure one kingdom at a time as if being called by something unseen or unheard. Rather than focus on the ark’s actual construction, Aronofsky explores Noah’s insecurities, the effect of the ark’s construction on his family and marriage, and the unforgiving, harsh animalistic culture of the time.
The film contains many elements audiences have come to expect from Aronofsky over the years: a distinct visual style punctuated with eccentricities, quick cuts, and music from frequent collaborator Clint Mansell. The film shines brightest in two sequences that utilize still photography shown in rapid succession as a stream gives rise to life as it snakes its way across the land and as Noah relates to his frightened family the creation of the world. Fans of Mansell will be disappointed, however, as the score here is merely satisfactory; unfortunately, it is not exemplary by any means and lacks a defining refrain that has made Mansell’s past scores so memorable. The performances of the film’s females stand out, with Jennifer Connelly delivering her best performance in years as Noah’s supportive but opinionated wife, Naameh.
If one can view the film through a spiritual – rather than literal – lens, the connection to its deeper meaning can be made despite the artistic licenses that sometimes stray into fantasy. This is, indeed, where Aronofsky succeeds: magical fire rocks with multiple purposes, mystical flowers that appear from out of nowhere, the Transformer-like rock formations (mentioned above), and a glowing snake skin are simply physical manifestations of spiritual power in Aronofsky’s respectful vision. In fact, his embellishments add to the story rather than subtract from it and serve to convey the story’s spiritual power – which must be felt, and it is.
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