I didn't know what to expect when Noah was first announced. Since all the Bible films that have been made recently have been really preachy and sanitised (except Passion of the Christ), I expected something like that but when I heard Darren Aronofsky was directing I had some hope for the film. Having seen it I can easily say that this is the most insane film that I've seen this year so far, in a good way.
There isn't really much point going over the plot as everyone knows the story of Noah's Ark. The thing is though, this isn't the sanitised version of the story that has been told in schools but is instead more drawn from Jewish lore meaning that some more violent and fantastical (to a larger degree) were drawn upon for this film including elements like the Watchers, fallen angels cursed into rock monsters. Along with this is the fact that the film takes a more environmentalist message, saying that the destruction of the world was caused by humanity polluting the planet and it also goes into the creation story but includes elements like the Big Bang, Earth being hit by a Mars sized body creating the moon and, in a move that is likely to piss a few people off, Darwinian evolution. All of this creates probably the most bizarre biblical film that has been made in recent years.
The acting in the film is really good as well. After saying nothing but bad things about Russell Crowe when I've reviewed any of his films in the past I can finally say that he gives a great performance. He brings a great amount of heft to the character and also makes Noah a major threat in the second half of the film. A lot of these films portray the person seeing visions as either genuinely having visions or being insane but in this, Crowe portrays Noah as both. Other highlights in the cast are Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. Lerman portrays his character at having a deep anger at Noah for events that I won't spoil in the film and a fear that there is no place for him in the world whilst Watson gives a brilliant, understated performance as a person who doesn't have a defined place, being a woman unable to have children, and is brilliant at the end of the film in events I won't spoil. Anthony Hopkins brings an appropriate amount of gravitas to Methusulah, Ray Winstone plays to his strengths as a violent, shouty king whilst Nick Nolte and Frank Langella are perfectly cast as the Watchers. If there are any weak links it's that Jennifer Connoly and Douglas Booth feel really bland and don't get much character development in the film.
On a visual level, Noah is excellent. Aranofsky's direction is excellent and the cinematography by Matthew Libatique is excellent, especially the use of light and silhouettes. The Ark itself is an incredible feat of practical effects although I wish the same could be said of the animals. The CG effects for the animals in the film are terrible and every time I saw the animals I was pulled out of the experience. Thankfully though the effects for the flood and for the creation story are excellent, with the creation sequence having some of the most beautiful effects shots that will be seen this year. One thing that I was surprised at was the level of violence. Not so much the violence though as much as I was surprised the film got a 12a with all the violence in it, just felt really surprised at the rating.
Overall, Noah is a great film. Whilst some of the effects are story motiffs are not handled as well as they could have been, along with some of the cast being wasted, the overall execution of the plot, Aronofsky's direction and the performances from Russell Crowe, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman make this film really interesting to watch.
My Rating: 4/5