Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah is an epic unlike anything before it. This isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster and instead a dense film, that’s full of fantasy and darkness and pushes Aronofsky’s boundaries as a storyteller. Noah isn’t perfect, but it’s visually grand, features a complex and dynamic story made all the better by Russell Crowe‘s lead performance, Clint Mansell‘s remarkably soothing musical score and Aronofsky’s eye for balancing genres and moods with precision and creativity.
There’s really no point going into great plot detail for a film like Noah. The story is well-known, but just in case you don’t know it, I’ll spit it out for you real quick. God chooses a man (Noah, played by Russell Crowe) to construct an ark and save Earth’s animals from an apocalyptic flood that is set to wipe out everyone and everything on the planet. Noah must put aside everything and begin constructing the ark without fear and without question.
It’s very important to note that one doesn’t need to be deeply religious to appreciate a film like Noah. Director Darren Aronofsky has done a splendid job crafting a film that works within the story, but also as its own piece of sci-fi fantasy. Noah isn’t as straightforward as the trailers paint it out to be. The film is full of fantasy and darkness, with many people claiming it to be a cross between Aronofsky’s own The Fountain and The Lord of the Rings. I’d agree with that statement partially, while also arguing that it never quite reaches those great heights of The Fountain in terms of spirituality and complexity.
Still, this is a dense film. Aronofsky doesn’t just gloss over things and instead he explores the character of Noah rather deeply and makes you question his motives and his believes almost constantly. This isn’t a film that will make you slam religion or embrace it blindly, but instead understand the concept of God and become fascinated with a story about one man devoting his life and everything in it for the greater good of his “creator”.
And it’s a fascinating journey, full of morality exploration as well as the basic idea of what it means to be good and what it means to be merciful. Aronofsky doesn’t just blindly invest you in Noah and his mission to save the world’s innocence. Instead, he presents the character, flaws and all and takes us on his journey and eventual discovery.
It’s an incredible ride and one that comes with its fair share of bumps and resting periods. Aronofsky doesn’t hit this one completely out of the park, but he comes damn close and as close as a director of his caliber is ever going to get when working within studio restrictions. This is Aronofsky’s largest and most accessible film and he fought for every single penny and every single cut and the result shows.
There are many points in the film that express extreme darkness and hopelessness that some audience members might find too shocking to watch and there’s also a great deal of science fiction at play that’s never hinted at in the trailers, which again shows Aronofsky’s vision untouched. Many will be turned off by this film’s larger than life scale, while others will accept it with open arms.
Russell Crowe takes charge as the fearless leader Noah. Crowe’s always been a top tier actor and his performance in this film is nothing short of amazing. Watching his transformation both physically and mentally on screen is astonishing and gives you a great sense of his character’s sacrifice and own personal struggle. Crowe’s exceptionally great during the film’s middle act, when the war and outrage kick in and Noah is faced with many hard decisions.
Unfortunately, one of my biggest complaints with the film comes from its supporting characters and how so few of them are given enough written material to expand on and really dig into. Logan Lerman plays one of Noah’s sons with enough justifiable inner-turmoil to understand his characters progression, but there’s never enough moments where we as an audience are allowed to truly dig into his characters intentions and feel for them on the same level as Noah. Same goes for Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, the film’s leading ladies that occasionally bounce off of Crowe’s Noah, but are never really grown into their own defying characters.
Don’t get me wrong, each character in Noah has enough importance to be on the screen, but none of them are given as much detail as the titular character, which makes sense in the grander scheme of things, but is somewhat disappointing when considering who Aronofsky managed to get to play these characters.
Another worthy mention goes to Clint Mansell‘s musical score, which feels a lot like a spiritual sequel to the two’s collaboration on The Fountain. The music of Noah bares strong resemblance to The Fountain in terms of repetition of specifically haunting, yet uplifting cues and a general underlying mood that’s very present and lingering during the film’s slower moments. I wouldn’t consider the overall score as memorable as The Fountain, but it’s definitely a similar listen.
Noah‘s story might not be for everyone, but the images and visual sequences that Aronofsky manages to capture definitely should be. This is one of the most beautiful-looking films at times, specifically during the flashbacks and during one of the film’s extended creation/universe-forming sequences. This is where Aronofsky grows as a filmmaker, allowing himself to expand much farther than ever before and do it with a studio budget that allows for an even larger amount of resources. And he doesn’t waste a single penny, giving us something to gaze at in complete awe.
Noah isn’t Darren Aronofsky’s best film. It’s not even in his top three, but it’s certainly one that should be seen and discussed by as many people as possible. Aronofsky’s pushing and complex storytelling methods are on full display here, followed closely with a compelling performance by Russell Crowe and backed by a frightening, yet beautiful score by Clint Mansell. Noah is a highly original and unique retelling of an age-old tale that redefines what Hollywood epics are all about.
Noah – 8.5/10