Whether you believe the biblical tale or not, the story of Noah and his ark does have a compelling, big-screen nature to it. The narrative is large, not only in a broad physical scope, but also in terms of a philosophical journey. To bring this larger-than-life anecdote to the silver screen takes courage, perseverance and simply put, guts; and Hollywood has director Darron Aronofsky to thank for bringing this heavily bagged tale to cinematic life.
Aronofsky had to make a film that wouldn’t drive people away in a religious sense; but that did not stop him from creating a dark, brooding, emotionally powerful, character-driven spectacle. “Noah” builds its foundation as a well-made movie strictly on the individual personas that perpetuate through the screen. The story arc of Noah is compelling and downright dangerous, and the narratives of the minor characters aren’t smooth sailing either.
Oscar Winner Russell Crowe takes the lead as the bearded captain, and, much like his character in the 2000 smash “Gladiator,” there is a personal complexity that drives the film. Noah has to carry a burden of leaving the entirety of human kind behind to die, and it’s this weight along with an obsession to obey his interpretation of The Creator’s wishes, that drive him to act in radical ways. “Noah,” without the human struggle of its lead, would have been nothing but a religious version of the 2009 disaster film “2012.”
Jennifer Connelly plays Noah’s wife, Naameh, and her most notable trait is the overwhelming desire to see her children happy. Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Leo McHugh Carroll play the blood sons of Noah and Naameh, and they are joined with the talents of Emma Watson who portrays the family’s adopted daughter Ila. The family dynamic is tested throughout “Noah,” but it’s a different, unexpected confrontation that truly takes precedent.
Ray Winstone plays the part of Tubal Caine, the leader of men, and the murderer of Noah’s father. Caine attempts to lead his hordes of unworthy constituents in a takeover of the ark, and while his followers all perish, the power-hungry, destiny-driven king manages to sneak aboard the craft. Caine and Noah clash physically, verbally, and moralistically. However, in terms of their motivation to achieve their task, both men are brutal and unforgiving; as “Noah” plays out, one can’t help but notice that while these two men stand on separate sides of the proverbial line, they share numerous personal traits.
“Noah” does have some pitfalls: the writing is often uneven, the story drags at times and transitions between certain scenes seem forced and unclean. But overall, Aronofsky is able to use character turmoil, much like his previous works of “Black Swan,” and “The Wrestler,” to push “Noah” past the plateau of mediocrity. Is “Noah” a new standard of epic cinema? No. Is “Noah” a well-put-together entertaining experience? Yes.
Stanko Rating: B-