The biblical epic, “Noah”, has been generating a lot of controversy from Christian groups angry with the film’s interpretation of the classic story. Yes, much of this latest big-screen adaptation is new material, highly dramatized, and a little far-fetched. Even so, “Noah” is flooded with rich performances from a star-studded cast, impressive visuals, and an emotional core that truly works.
Russell Crowe is excellent as the title character. As the classic story goes Noah receives messages from God in a dream and is told to build an ark and fill it with his family and two of all the creatures on Earth. This is so they can be the only survivors of an impending, catastrophic flood that will wash the lands clean of all wickedness. However, the script (co-written by Ari Handel and director Darren Aronofsky, whose 2010 “Black Swan” earned him an Oscar nomination) presents new chapters in this familiar saga, including presenting Noah as a tortured hero – his character taking some very interesting turns that force his wife and children (and us) to question him, as he is questioning The Creator.
Jennifer Connelly delivers a subtly powerful performance as Noah’s wife, the heart and soul of what is potentially the last family unit on Earth. Emma Watson is outstanding in a pivotal and showcase role as the adopted daughter, who was taken in by Noah when she was very young, after her family was killed by the evil clan of non-believers. They’re led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone in a way too typical Hollywood, over-the-top role). Logan Lerman (Watson’s co-star in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is solid as one of Noah’s three sons, who wanders a little close to the dark side. And if that’s not enough, the great Anthony Hopkins is spot-on as Noah’s grandfather, the wise Methuselah, whose close relationship with God comes in handy.
“Noah” is 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like 40 days and 40 nights. There are a few spots where things drag a bit, but Aronofsky’s distinctive vision both with the story (divided almost evenly between action on land and in the sea), and the overall look (which includes a fantastic “Creation Story” sequence that may also spark some controversy) keeps you locked in throughout. His ability to build tension and suspense into a story we’ve all known since we were 6 years old is a remarkable achievement.
“Noah” is rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence and disturbing images. It’s appropriate for teens and up. While it’s clearly not a word-for-word retelling of Genesis 6:1 – 9:17, “Noah” is a sophisticated and effective family drama that’s absolutely worth seeing.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Noah” gets a B.