Friday, 4 April 2014

[Review] Noah

Noah (Russell Crowe) is a peaceful man living with his loving wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and three sons. Haunted by visions of great death and destruction via a devastating flood, Noah is decreed by the “Creator” to build a giant ark to provide shelter for two of every animal. With help given by his sons and considerable help provided by the “Watchers” -- fallen angels who have manifested as stone-like creatures -- they set about building the ark. Meanwhile, eldest son Shem (Douglas Booth) falls in love with a stranded young girl (Emma Watson), whilst the youngest son Ham (Logan Lerman) questions the apocalyptic methods of the “Creator”.

On board the ark, a moral dilemma threatens to tear the family apart. Amidst the agonizing screams of humanity as the rising sea engulfs it, the family’s pleas for remorse towards their fellow humanity land on deaf ears, as Noah becomes a man possessed. He sets about determined to comply with the “creators” wish of bringing complete annihilation to the human race, even if that means purging his yet to be born grandchild from existence.

Russell Crowe brings incredible intensity to the role. Despite the love that he has for his family, he grows increasingly judgemental towards the rotten nature of humanity surrounding him. Scarred from a very young age when he witnessed the brutal death of his father at the hands of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winterstone). He has seen the decadence of humanity first hand. Leaving him torn between his love for his family and his desire to oblige the wrath of “creator” and fulfil the prophecy bestowed upon him.

Director Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to telling tales about men and women who lead themselves to self-destruction thanks to their obsessions. Despite its Epic Ambitions, Noah is not a departure from this formula. Aronofsky has framed a human drama with-in the constructs of an Epic Blockbuster. It is a $150 Million Blockbuster that is not afraid to discuss these ideas of morality and self-consumption with its audience. As such, its willingness to go there should be applauded.

With that said, these same ideas are washed away come the denouement as the film takes a lighter tone in its closing moments. Arronofsky extensively overplays his hand courtesy of a tediously overwritten final monologue. Turning what were frank ideas about morality and the nature of humanity into a riff on the biblical story of Job. The finale seems to be at odds with itself. Aronofsky attempts to serve his own artistic intent whilst appearing to appease the studio executives by giving them easy to digest answers in return for their money. Some things are best left unsaid and in this case the denouement felt far too overplayed for its own good.

That is not to say that the film is without virtues. There is much to be appreciated here. Given the epic proportions of the canvas he is now working on, Aronofsky deftly rises to the challenge placed before him. The devastation of the flood is a visually spectacular sequence to behold. In the troughs of desperation, the remains of humanity attempt to overthrow Noah and his family to take the Ark as their own. The scale of such sequences would feel right at home in any of the Lord of the Rings films. Even the Watchers would feel right at home in the Tolkien universe.

Arronofsky’s visual palette is appropriately muted. Much like humanity has corrupted the land they call home, so too has colour been drained from the visual palette. The sparse use of colour shining through in key moments is all the more striking as it represents the small glimmer of remaining hope. Then, in contrast, there are the vintage psychedelic Aronofsky moments. In this case, a brilliant monologue delivered by Noah detailing the creation of the universe, which is accompanied by an equally brilliant visual depiction of his tale courtesy of time-lapse photography.

Despite it’s appealing qualities, there is just something about the film that remains emotionally detached. At two-and-a-half hours, it borders into tedium. Russell Crowe turns in a strong performance, but his supporting cast members are under-written and uninvolved. They mostly serve as nothing more than a means to show just how detached the once compassionate Noah has become. In the later act, they see him as nothing more than an obsessive patriarch figure who has become filled with hate. At times, It is difficult to deny them that viewpoint. Making the denouement all the more difficult to swallow.

Noah is by no means a terrible film; rather it's a disappointment. Especially considering the pedigree behind it. It’s a film made up of great elements, but those elements do not necessarily come together to make a great film.


(and a half)

-Daniel M



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