‘Noah’ Lands on Solid Ground

Noah2014PosterWhen a movie is based off a book, there are always the groups of fans that will claim the movie took liberties that it had no right to take, or that it left out things that needed to be in the film. Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Noah”, based off the story from the Bible, does not divert from this tradition. Russell Crowe stars as the titular character, with Jennifer Connelly playing his wife. Aronofsky wrote and directs the film.

People who are looking for a by-the-book (pun intended) portrayal of Noah and his ark should know right away that Aronofsky has taken numerous creative liberties. This isn’t your great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s Noah. This is a story for the modern filmgoer, filled with epic shots, hand-to-hand combat and giant talking rock monsters (I told you it diverted from the source material). It is a little like “300” in that it takes a historical event and adds mystical and mythical aspects.

Russell Crowe does a great job portraying the man who built a boat to save every kind of animal when God decided to flood the Earth. He struggles balancing his human instincts while at the same time obeying what the Creator is telling him to do. It is a multi-layered performance that connects with the audience.

Ray Winstone plays the film’s antagonist, the leader of a group of corrupt and treacherous people. He is scummy and evil and embodies every characteristic that has made the Creator decide mankind needs to be eradicated. The scene where Winstone leads his army against Noah in an attempt to take the ark is wonderfully entertaining and well-shot.

There is a bird’s-eye shot of Earth about halfway through “Noah” that shows the storm in full rage, and it had several members of the audience, including myself, whisper “wow”. That shot is the peak of the film. Everything after that is just not as interesting.

It is almost like every character on the ark has a sudden change in heart; they all become different people. Some people’s motivations don’t make sense, while other people’s choices are just maddening. It drags on for a little too long, and by the end of the film you feel like you have cabin fever from being trapped inside the boat with these people for so long.

As gorgeous as some shots are, there are other shots that seem like they were shot on a handheld camcorder. They are so shaky and so borderline vomit-inducing that I had to actually look away from the screen for a second. I’m not sure if they used up the $125 million budget before they could purchase a tripod, but it really was shocking that a Hollywood project could get away with several shots like that.

“Noah” really is a tale of two halves. The first half is full of an epic hand-to-hand battle, great story telling and that one jaw-dropping shot of Earth. But the second half of the film feels much longer than it actually is, and you simply don’t care about the character’s desires. Still, the film’s scope is impressive and the effects are first rate. As long as you walk into “Noah” knowing you are not getting a straight out of the Bible story, you will be entertained, and at times in awe. It is just a shame the film could not maintain its momentum for the entire ride. Then it could have been something special.

Critics Rating: 7/10

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