By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 6 out of 10
Darren Aronofsky has been known for his radical takes on conventional film, as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan have been tabbed as some of the stronger art house-style films over the last few years, with his incredible and deep drama The Wrestler vindicating Aronofsky as an incredibly driven director with an indelible track record. This immensely talented filmmaker takes his first misstep in Noah, the definition of a biblical epic, spearheaded by perhaps one of the best dramatic records of our time, Russell Crowe. Despite jaw-dropping visuals and strong performances by the cast, the gap between the film and reality and an immensely weak third stanza ultimately reverts this film into mediocrity.
After witnessing the murder of his father at the hands of Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) as a child, Noah (Crowe) lives life as a humble farmer with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and Ham (Logan Herman). After witnessing a sign from God signaling a flood, Noah takes it upon himself to construct an ark that will save the creatures of the planet and his family in order for humanity to continue after the flood eradicates all the evil from the world.
Looking at trailers and other marketing materials for the film, Noah was built as an epic from the onset, with the film electing to execute every facet of the story of Noah, including several aspects that take the film beyond the realm of humanity. In order for this film to work, Crowe had to join the ranks of Mickey Rourke and Natalie Portman as actors or actresses that unveiled a career-making performance in an Aronofsky film, a task that Crowe is able to accomplish. His portrayal of Noah is perfect, his mannerisms, dedication and loyalty to the cause given to him and the madness that ensues as a result of this ambiguous mission is relayed to a strong degree.
The supporting cast is also immensely strong. Emma Watson is featured in perhaps her first breakout, mainstream role outside of the Harry Potter series (Not really counting Perks of Being a Wildflower or The Bling Ring), starring as a former slave girl who is taken in by Noah and his family, eventually falling in love with his eldest son. A key component to the plot, Watson is able to channel herself into the character to deliver an outstanding performance. Connelly, Herman and Winstone also turn in outstanding performances, each bringing their own level of intensity in each role to help Aronofsky produce the best end product possible.
Adding to the outstanding acting are incredible visuals, which will be widely seen as the best aspect of this film. Every detail of the ark, the large-scale battle sequences and heavy weather scenes are demonstrated to amazing effect. The key visuals, however, come courtesy of the Guardians, a group of rock-shaped goliaths created from fallen angels. We will get into the issues inherent within this massive plot device, but one thing is for certain; they look absolutely incredible in the film.
In addition to the visuals and acting, the first two thirds of the film are, for the most part, jaw-droppingly intense. From the opening stanza to the large-scale battle scene, the transfer from mind to screen is accomplished to an immensely successful degree. From beginning to end, Aronofsky throws his best at the visuals of the movie, allowing Noah to be a visceral but visual feast that will be debated as one of the stronger visual spectacles of 2014.
The first two-thirds of Noah are executed to near-perfection; up until the flood hits, the movie is moving with the pedal to the metal, moving at a swift pace and with a clear cut and interesting direction. However, once the flood hits and the Ark is set afloat, the entire dynamic of the movie changes, to debatable results. As a result of this being a religious-centered movie, Noah had a ton of controversy ensue from its latter third, but ultimately the major fault exists in the fact that the final stanza is simply uninteresting.
As the film rapidly reaches its conclusion, the action and pace grinds to a halt. The finale leaves such a sour taste in your mouth that, walking out, viewers will mostly forget the outstanding opening and focus entirely upon the lackluster conclusion.
The modern day example of a fairly-successful executed biblical epic, Noah is driven by an incredible cast and immersive visuals. An incredible film up until the divisive third act, the plot falls short as it hits a grinding halt down the homestretch that will certainly turn off viewers. Worth the watch for Crowe’s performance and the incredible visuals, Noah comes close to being the epic we all expected it to be, but a last-minute fault ultimately holds the film back from what could have been.