Noah a Biblical Epic Boldly Transformed
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Jul 28, 2014
DVD Release Date: July 29, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: March 28, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content)
Genre: Biblical Epic/Action
Run Time: 138 min.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte, Leo McHugh Carroll
Rather than rehash the controversy surrounding Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, something that’s already been well-documented since the project was first announced more than two years ago, let me skip right to the heart of the matter. While not a verse-by-verse reenactment of what happens in Genesis, an impossible task for a filmmaker, anyway, given the sheer brevity of the text, all of the core biblical themes are still firmly intact in Noah.
No, there isn’t some secret, hippy-dippy environmentalist agenda. Nor is it Hollywood’s shameless attempt to conspire against people of faith. Rather, it’s a story that’s inspired by Noah and, as a result, the filmmakers tread boldly into the uncomfortable waters of mankind’s wickedness and the resulting punishment (i.e. death).
Drawing a clear line between the ways of God and man, Noah is rife with theological exploration but never gets preachy. Instead, the viewer is given room to reflect, ruminate and ultimately, draw his/her own conclusions, something that flies in the face of many faith-based films that focus on a specific call-to-action point.
Like he’s done with his previous films Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and Pi, Aronofsky has fashioned something just as artful and hypnotic with Noah. It’s a thinking man’s action movie, and for someone like myself who grew up going to Sunday school, it’s a sobering reminder that Noah’s story is so much more than what I remember from the cheery felt board rendition—the pairs of cute animals, the big wooden boat and a rainbow. With this Noah, you’re confronted with the sheer horror of the carnage. Noah reminds us there are consequences for rebelling against God, and they aren’t pretty or easy to watch.
Rather than committing to a specific time period like many of its cinematic predecessors, Noah feels both ancient and strikingly timely. In a world that looks a lot like the desolate locale that Denzel Washington’s character found himself in in The Book of Eli, Noah (Russell Crowe in his best performance since Cinderella Man), his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly, who starred with Crowe in A Beautiful Mind) and three sons Shem (Douglas Booth, Romeo and Juliet), Ham (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll, Fred Claus) lead a simple, counter-cultural existence.
In stark contrast to their peers, Noah and his family value kindness and respect in a world that’s lost its way. As the masses continue to become increasingly violent, power-hungry and downright deplorable in God’s eyes, Noah begins having rather disturbing dreams (a popular Aronofsky motif, no less). In the wake of Mankind’s disregard for each other and God’s creation, Noah hears God’s call. It’s not a booming voiceover like something from The Ten Commandments, but the message is frighteningly clear. It’s time to start over, and God is sending a flood to do just that.
While it seemed like a bit of curious casting at first, Crowe is terrific—and surprisingly nuanced—in his portrayal of Noah. Never coming across as a mere caricature of a biblical hero, there’s no doubt that Noah feels out of his depth with such a great responsibility on his shoulders. But as unsure or frustrated as he is at times, Noah’s sense of resolve never wavers, even when it causes a major rift with one of his sons or his wife.
Showcasing the delicate balance of God’s justice and mercy, Noah has plenty of practical applications for anyone watching. And to allow you, the potential viewer, to have the same spoiler-free opportunity as me to screen the film, I’ll refrain from mentioning the many surprises along the way.
What I will leave you with is this: Aronofsky has radically transformed the biblical epic with Noah. Not only is it a feast for the eyes and intellect, but it sets a new standard for making movies that are both spiritually engaging and entertaining—something that everyone can probably agree is a good thing. Or at least a giant leap forward from what's usually playing at a theater near you.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: None
- Sex/Nudity: A young married couple is shown kissing (as crazy as things get is when we see the young man kiss his wife’s stomach). One of the storylines involves a pregnancy—and we briefly hear the groans and screams of childbirth.
- Violence/Thematic Material: Not surprisingly, this is a film filled with dark thematic material throughout. Death, the punishment for mankind’s wickedness, plays a central role in Noah’s disturbing visions and when the 40 days of rain show up. Although the action sequences aren’t overly gory (a recent comparison would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy), there are some scenes that would likely disturb a younger audience (i.e. a young girl is trampled to death, the harrowing images of the masses drowning).
- Drugs/Alcohol Use: A mix of herbs are used to lull the animals on the ark to sleep for the duration.