Darren Aronofsky's retelling of one of the most famous biblical stories is an epic, CGI-assisted, apocalypse that featured strong performances from its cast, especially Russell Crowe who finally reminds us why he was an Oscar winner, and an outstanding score by Clint Mansell with the Kronos Quartet. However, a tad disjointed with the first two acts feeling like a major CGI tent-pole, and the last act like a typical Aronofsky indie-drama.
Aronofsky directing was similar to his previous films with many close-ups (and for while, I almost thought Russell Crowe is going to break out in a song á la in Tom Hooper's Les Miserables) and quick cuts. But throughout, you still get the feel of his indie-roots despite the big budget with many scenes shot on handheld cameras. He refrained from going too biblical on the audience but also held back on his atheistical beliefs although there was a moment where I thought he might sneaked in something. And I think that was a smart, commercial choice. Whether it was the correct artistic choice, I guess it would be best left up to himself to decide. However, Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel had undoubtedly dug deep enough to portray Noah as simply a vessel of god. The story that they had created showed the possible complexities and dilemma that a man like him had to go through. But of course, with the Noah-chapters in the Genesis being as short as they are, many of the conflicts and dramas (particularly in the Third Act) may seem a bit too contrived and trite. The whole Third Act weighed the film down but gave layers to many of the characters and felt more like a typical Aronofsky drama rather than a big-budget CGI tent-pole. Perhaps what happened before just overwhelmed the audience for the drama, and the transition could have been better managed.
Russell Crowe gave the best performance of his career in a very long time! No, this would not gain him any awards, but it definitely reminded the audience that he was an Oscar winner once. His portrayal of Noah was as complex and deep as Aronofsky and Handel made him to be. His burly nature and those sad eyes really came to fore, and you can really imagine him to be shouldering the burden of god and debating within himself the decisions that he had to make. A believer tortured by his doubt on his belief.
Similarly, Jennifer Connelly - reunited with her Requiem for a Dream director - also showed us why she too got an Oscar on her mantel. She is not just a subservient wife as in the old days, but, like all female characters in Aronofsky's tales, a strong individual in her own right who has to make decisions that conflicts within herself. The protective nature of the mother against the loving devotion of a wife against the logical brain of the believer.
Ray Winstone was a formidable foe to Crowe's Noah standing up against him both physically and in presence. Anthony Hopkins too was well cast but these days Hopkins seemed to be just dialling in his performances.
Of the younger actors, Logan Lerman was a standout as Ham. After his standout performance as Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this is a worthy follow-up and makes him an actor worthy to keep an eye out for. His co-star in Wallflower, Emma Watson definitely had one of the meatier roles of the young cast, and although Watson was good, one can still feel that she's holding back and her roles post-Hermione are slowly getting a feel of same-ness.
But my favourite part of the movie is the grand, epic score by Clint Mansell featuring The Kronos Quartet. One of Mansell's best score since the one he did for Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (Lux Aeterna is one the most outstanding cinematic theme of the 21st century). The score itself retells the movie and is listenable on its own. Lush aural landscape with all the complexities of the visual film itself.
A great movie to watch in IMAX but definitely not necessary in 3D for everybody regardless of believes. HFR would have actually been good here. Strange that it is NC16 though, the youth could do with some insight about Genesis.