‘Noah’: from devastation to hope
A three-star review of ‘Noah,’ an original take on the Bible story by director Darren Aronofsky.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Noah,’ with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, from a screenplay by Aronofsky and Ari Handel. 131 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content. Several theaters.
The animals walk toward the vast ark two by two; a majestic, shimmering carpet of movement. It’s a central scene in Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious “Noah,” and it’s a wonder — you don’t know quite where to look at the seemingly endless parade of species, calmly moving forward as one. Though you know it was made with computers, you believe just for a moment that it might be the real thing; an appropriate reaction for a movie that’s ultimately about faith. (And you wish the shot went on longer, but computers, unlike miracles, have limits.)
Aronofsky, a wildly creative filmmaker whose diverse work includes “Black Swan,” “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream,” isn’t the name you’d think of for a standard biblical epic — and, sure enough, he hasn’t made one. “Noah,” inspired by but not strictly bound to the Bible story, is an often strange yet always intriguing depiction, filtered through contemporary ideas of environmentalism and presenting its title character as a man of unshakable faith and almost unendurable burdens.
In a vision, Noah (Russell Crowe) learns that he and his family must save the innocent — the animals — while the rest of humanity, which has wickedly squandered the gift of earth, perishes in a flood. With the help of fallen angels, known as the Watchers (looking oddly like great lumps of ash, with a flame glowing within), he builds an ark, fills it, and watches tight-lipped as the waters rise. “There is no room for them,” he says, unmoved by the screams of the drowning masses.
Though “Noah” presents a few interesting embellishments to the basic story (here, the family ingeniously uses a mixture of narcotic herbs to calm the animals into hibernation, so as to avoid fighting), what’s most memorable here are the visuals: Noah’s dream, immersed in blue water as animals swim upward; a sudden, achingly green forest that bursts up around Noah, providing materials with which to build the ark; the endless gray of the floodwaters, framed in a hatch through which Noah gazes. The actors are secondary but effective: particularly Crowe’s steadfast but troubled Noah; Jennifer Connelly as his quiet, steely wife; and Emma Watson, who brings an earnest, poignant sweetness to her role as an orphan who becomes their daughter-in-law.
The film ends with land, quiet waters, abundant greenery and a message of both devastation and hope. “Maybe we’ll learn to be kind,” wonders a character, as he walks away — kind to the earth, and to each other.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org