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NOAH

SYNOPSIS:
In Biblical times, when God is angered by man's wickedness, Noah (Russell Crowe) has visions of a punishing apocalyptic deluge to come and takes measures to protect his family, and all the animals.

Review by Louise Keller:
Above the expectation of the biblical epic disaster movie, it is Darren Aronofsky's top layer of morality that allows Noah safe passage, with Russell Crowe delivering his truest performance for some time - although it's not smooth sailing all the time with an overblown script that occasionally goes off course. While Ray Winstone offers the symbolic voice of temptation as Noah's nemesis Tual-cain, the main struggle between good and evil is played out in Noah's own mind as he shoulders the responsibility of the future of mankind.

Faith, determination and selflessness are the film's main themes, with Noah's inner conflict evolving from decisions involving his own family that are seemingly conflict with the Creator's greater vision. To be sure there's axe-yielding action and a brief spectacle of the flood, but don't expect a run-of-the-million Hollywood disaster blockbuster: the focus firmly rests on the psychological elements. The result is a mixed bag of ambitious filmmaking that only makes it to half mast.

Darren Aronofsky and co-screenwriter Ari Handel firmly set the scene by a prologue that puts Noah in the context of his forefathers and the text of the book of Genesis. Noah (Crowe, his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and his three sons live as nomads on a barren apocalyptic landscape, isolated from the world at large. Only collect what is needed is the first lesson that Noah teaches his oldest son and as the story progresses, Noah makes it clear he believes the Creator will provide what is required. Anthony Hopkins plays Methuselah, Noah's ancient grandfather who has a penchant for red berries and concurs it is man's imperfections that are prompting the end of the world.

Most of the exposition concentrates on the dynamics in Noah's family and in particular that involving his two elder sons Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman). The romance between Shem and Emma Watson's Ila, the young barren girl rescued early in the film provides one of the main story strands - including Ham's obsession to find a girl of his own. Lerman is excellent in a plum role that brings jealousy and revenge to the ship's table. Connelly offers pathos and heart to the role that reunite her with Crowe (after her Oscar-winning turn in A Beautiful Mind), while Crowe shows compassion and inner strength in a beautifully contained performance as the tormented Noah.

The Watchers, digitally created monsters representing the bible's fallen angels are an interesting inclusion to the tale - they are a blend of the Neverending Story's Rock Monster and multi-armed transformers whose sheer brute strength notionally enable the physical creation of the ark. It is likely that the audacity of this concept will divide audiences. But the issue about the animals did bother me -.there is no mention as to how the animals know about the impending flood or the fact that Noah is building an ark. The fact they simply appear and promptly have a snooze for the journey is less than satisfactory.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Complaining that Darren Aronosfsky's film Noah departs from the Bible story is like complaining that Michael Bay's Transformers films are unrealistic. Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel have not told THAT story of Noah, but ANOTHER story of Noah, and given that the Bible story is bunkum, they have upped the bunkum with firearms, explosives and a whole range of neo-mystical manifestations to replace the miracles.

Speaking of Transformers, the film's single worst idea is a collection of fallen angels who have been turned into giant stone monsters, reminiscent of Transformer figures, led by Og, who sounds like Frank Langella with the bass at max.

Trying to tell the Noah story as a biblical epic for 21st century audiences seems ambitious at best, which is perhaps why it hasn't been done before. The special effects that make the flood and the ark possible can't sustain a feature length movie, and if this attempt at telling 'the whole story' is a guide, that doesn't work either.

The film begins in heavy handed, overblown style, which sets the tone for an earnest denunciation of mankind, spreading industrialisation like a fatal virus around the globe. The Creator is not pleased and Noah (Russell Crowe) has nightmares about what is to come: big water to wipe out mankind. With Noah's help. He seeks advice from his grandpa, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), who lives a hermit-like existence in a cave. Methuselah is wise and also has magical powers which come in handy to restore crucial fertility when required.

Russell Crowe carries the burden of Noah's mission well, devout, determined and decisive, before doubt rocks his certainty. Jennifer Connelly worked with Aronofsky on Requiem for a Dream (2000) and with Crowe on A Beautiful Mind (2001); those good experiences serve them well in this, a demanding film on several levels. (Period, CGI, physicality, tough location...) All the supports deliver fine work and even Ray Winstone manages to tame his Cockney accent a bit.

So here is Noah for the 21st century cinema audience; but - and it's hard to say this without giving away some elements - there is an internal inconsistency about Noah's understanding of what is wanted of him by The Creator (as God is referred to). He is commanded to save his family and the animals, but when that's done, he tells his distraught family that all humans must die, including them.

Clint Mansell seems to need no encouragement to deliver 'Biblical epic' music, and the vast amounts of CGI help create a strange, alien sort of world. Shot in the cold, harsh northern light of Iceland's starkly beautiful landscapes, the film looks other worldly in every exterior scene. But other worldly without an identity.

After making a string of acclaimed films - Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan - Aronofsky seems to have jumped ship. His Noah seems like a strange pastiche of sci-fi and Biblical elements in uneasy fusion, dunked in the dark soup of guilt, rescued at the last moment by the redemption of humanity's innate sense of mercy. But that's a bit hard to swallow after everything that's gone before, leaving us feeling manipulated.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

NOAH (M)
(US, 2014)

CAST: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Kevin Durand, Marton Csokas, Ray Winstone, Sami Gayle, Nick Nolte, Dakota Goyo

VOICES: Frank Langella

PRODUCER: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky

SCRIPT: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique

EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum

MUSIC: Clint Mansell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 27, 2014







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