Sunday, 27 July 2014

Noah

Since the announcement that Darren Aronofsky was to helm a film adaptation of the Biblical tale of Noah's Ark, the entire production has been questioned and ridiculed from start to finish. Upon release the question on everyone's lips was simple; whom exactly is this film targeted towards? The film drew major criticism from Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups and has even been banned in a few countries to boot. I'll admit it; this is one of those films that I kind of prejudged. But not for any religious or non-religious cocerns, mind you. As a reviewer I always keep an open mind (I loved The Lone Ranger, after all!), But sometimes there comes along a film that sounds like such an utter mess that's it's hard not to prejudge. Noah is one of those films, and I suspect that many reviewers already made their minds up long before they even saw the film. Though I passed up on Noah when it hit the cinemas, I got a hold of the Blu-Ray and decided to give it a chance.  The question is... is it any good?


Directed by Darren Aronofsky and out on DVD and Blu-Ray is Noah, a film that was undoubtedly a labour of love for its director. Work on the script of Noah began in the year 2000, and over the years development fell through a few times for various reasons. Thinking he wouldn't get it made, Aronofsky decided to turn the tale into a graphic novel with the help of comic book artist/writer Niko Henrichon. Though the film of Noah did finally enter production, Henrichon still finished his graphic novel of Noah, which was based upon an earlier script. Growing up, the story of Noah I knew was that he was just some guy God chose to build an Ark, fill it full of two of every animal and then use it to survive the great flood. That was pretty much it, but this version of Noah is... different.


The film opens with a prologue of the story of Cain and Abel, two sons of Adam and Eve. After getting into a fight, Cain kills his brother Abel that leads to “the Creator” putting a curse on Cain and his descendants. Fleeing to the East and under the protection of a group of fallen angels known as The Watchers, they help Cain build a thriving industrial society. However, Cain’s poisonous influence spreads across the land, and ultimately leads to a world that is teeming with sin. Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, and his descendants are tasked with protecting what is left of creation. This is where Noah comes in, the last in the line of Seth. After enduring various visions from the Creator that shows the world will be wiped clean of sin, Noah must build an Ark, and not only fill it with animals that will inhabit the new world, but also his family. With the help of The Watchers and all the while with Tubal-Cain, the last in the line of Cain, and his sinful followers threatening to take the Ark for themselves, Noah must finish the task the Creator has placed before him.

The first thing that struck me about Noah was that despite its $125 million budget, it feels like a small film. Headlined by a great performance by Russell Crowe and a truly extraordinary one by Jennifer Connelly, Noah is, much like all of Aronofsky's work, very much a deep character study. From the anguish Noah finds himself put through even after the Ark sets sail, to the birth right Tubal-Cain sees upon himself, Noah delivers on so many different levels. I was incredibly surprised by how personal, moving and thoughtful it was, as on its surface it sounds very Hollywood. For instance, The Watchers are these large, hulking almost Transformer-like collection of stone and rocks, and even end up taking on hundreds of warriors head on in an incredibly breath-taking battle. Then you have Ray Winstone playing Tubal-Cain, and absolutely chewing up the scenery. From leading a group of Mad Max looking warriors to Noah's Ark, to the post-apocalyptic look of his city, without seeing the film you'd be forgiven in thinking it had no heart. It just sounds batshit insane, right? But yes, while those fantasy elements are over-the-top and very much akin to something like The Lord of the Rings, at the heart of Noah is a story of human struggle, a struggle that is told amid the Creator's decision to wipe out humanity.


This isn't a sugar coated God either, this is the unashamedly vengeful God that in the Old Testament killed the first-born children of Egypt in opposition to Rameses II. The God in Noah seeks to cleanse the world of sin, as the society that Cain began is quite literally tearing itself apart at the seams. This becomes apparent when Noah ventures to see the city for himself, and happens upon a place that is quite literally hellish. From human sacrifices, rape and an overall feeling of humans turning on each other like wild animals, the world that the Creator is vanquishing is one that had it coming. There's something almost refreshing by how brutal this world is, both visually and narratively.

Sporting a overall wonderful cast, a truly beautiful score by Clint Mansell, a visual style that really sets it apart from any Biblical film so far, intense action that isn't just mindless CGI and a genuinely powerful human story at its heart, Noah really impressed me. Though Noah is based upon the Biblical story of Noah's Ark, it doesn't ram it down your throat. That said, the film doesn't distance itself from the source material either. So, whom exactly is this film targeted towards? It's aimed towards the viewer that doesn't bring any preconceived notions to the table. What we have here is a film that both the believer and the sceptic can enjoy, and come away from it inspired by its intense human drama.

Noah rides out the storm and gets a 5/5.

[★★★★★]

Denis Murphy


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