Film review: Noah

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Joseph Austin reviews Biblical epic Noah, with Russell Crowe in the title role

Driven by a stout performance from Russell Crowe as the protector of creation, Noah’s effective mix of Old Testament brutality and stunning modern day visuals make Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic a slightly better-than-average affair.

Russell Crowe in Noah

Russell Crowe in Noah

First in line to have a bash at the Book of Genesis, with Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring Christian Bale arriving later this year, Noah opens with the bold statement that “in the beginning there was nothing”.

This being one of many controversial and outrage-inducing elements which have irritated Church circles and flooded the internet (no pun intended) – the film’s supposed Biblical inaccuracies and distortions of ‘God’s word’.

It seems Hollywood can’t please everyone, as many Christians and others believe that God existed before this beginning, and have also voiced their unhappiness with the film’s depiction of Noah as a ‘psychopathic killer’.

But with atheist director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan) on record as saying that Noah is “the least Biblical Biblical film ever made” and producers Paramount explaining that the film is “inspired by the story of Noah”, this inevitable religious backlash is something non-believers need not worry about.

Tasked with the survival of the innocent – the innocent in this case being all CGI creatures great and small – a bearded and more badass Noah (Russell Crowe) envisions a series of nightmarish images believed to signify the end of the world.

Sent by The Creator (rather intriguingly the G-word – God, not Gladiator – is uttered not once in the film, stressing Noah’s ‘inspired by’ tag all the more), Noah interprets these rather trippy hallucinations to be the total destruction of mankind for all their wicked sins.

Basically, it’s death by watery grave.

Ensuring the survival of creation, Crowe’s Noah and his family of A-Listers; his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson), and grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), all help to construct a huge container-like wooden ark that even Ikea would be proud of.

But it’s not all by the numbers (two-by-two?) for Noah and co, as the arrival of the evil and unavoidably cockney Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), shows up to claim his right to the ark, causing a full scale Lord of the Rings-type siege, with only a buzz cut-haired Noah and weird Clash of the Titans-esque rock monsters to defend it.

It’s really the cast of Noah, or more precisely Noah himself, that keeps you interested for the majority of the film’s boggy two hours and 19 minutes.

Russell Crowe is perfect for a more macho yet sensitive Noah, and it’s hard to see anybody else in that role.

The film can also boast some boundless visuals accompanied by today’s now customary, run-of-the-mill CGI blockbuster effects.

But Aronofsky’s flick is as much a test of faith for its patriarchal protagonist as it is for its audience.

Believers in the Bible story will probably leave Noah feeling disappointed, while it offers non-believers a fascinating philosophical melodrama that rather comes up short against its own lofty ambitions.