My screening of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Noah, will forever remain one of the most memorable movie going experiences of my life. At some point, with years of time to obscure my memory, my experience of watching the film will become synonymous with the film itself. Watching Noah is something I’ll never forget, and I’d like to tell you why.
Art is all about what we bring to it. How we feel about any artistic creation is nothing more than a reflection of who we are. And although many film critics will skillfully avoid discussing their personal religious beliefs in their reviews for the film, everyone who watches Noah will bring their own bias to it. Doesn’t matter what you do or do not believe in, Noah’s subject material lends itself to harsh, personal scrutiny.
So, perhaps it’s important to note that I’m not religious at all. The closest thing I have to a God is the cinematic vision of Ingmar Bergman, with the gentle synths of M83 running a close second. But in the traditional sense, religion isn’t part of my life. Never has been. I entered Noah with a clean slate; unclouded by decades of denominational bias and opinions. I’m only here to judge the movie as just that, a movie. No comparisons, no inflamed rhetoric of inaccuracies – just the film.
With all that in mind, I can’t think of one thing I didn’t like about Noah. Saw it three days ago, and it’s sat rather well. It’s far from the best film Darren Aronofsky has made, but I found it to be completely worthy of my time. Its pace never faltered or grew dull, its visuals (achieved much through extensive computer effects) were universally stunning, the acting was consistently on point, and the execution of the story was surprisingly dark. Honestly, the one thought that dominated my mind throughout Noah was how the hell it managed to earn a PG-13 rating. Graphic violence, sex, cannibalism, substance abuse, implied rape – this is genuinely one of the most grisly PG-13 films I’ve ever seen. Not a compliant, just a curious observation.
We all know the story of Noah and his fantastical ark – a man who receives a message from God (thankfully, in this film, a message that is not delivered via a loud voice booming from beyond the clouds) and goes about executing God’s will implicitly. By any means necessary, Noah (Russell Crowe, steady and fearless throughout) will build his ark, thereby saving the world’s animal population, while God kills all of Earth’s human inhabitants as punishment for them ruining the world he created.
To fulfill his duty, Noah is helped by his wife, Naamah (Jennifer Connelly, her best work in years), his adopted daughter, Ila (Emma Watson, not a false note to be found), his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), and his two sons, loyal Shem (Douglas Booth) and rebellious Ham (Logan Lerman). They routinely face obstacles, namely from Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) an angry leader of angry men who all want to hitch a ride on Noah’s ark.
As mentioned, I can’t recall a single, egregious fault of the film. Noah has been Darren Aronofsky’s passion project for decades – it’s the movie he’s always wanted to make, and his earnest intentions shine through nearly every frame of the film. I was so pleased that Noah didn’t bog itself down with tireless religious exposition (something nearly all religious-themed films are guilty of) and instead elected to move its story along swiftly. Russell Crowe is an actor I often have trouble with, but there was a nobility (matched with his fiery intensity) that he brought to Noah that I found utterly compelling. Noah isn’t the kind of film I’ll revisit often, but it’s one I’ll remember for years to come. Even if a ferocious act of nature is the main reason why. B+