Russell Crowe takes on the titular role, as a devoted family man who is hand-picked by God, to somehow save mankind and all animal species on earth, ahead of the forthcoming flood that will destroy the planet. In order to obey the omnipotent and benevolent spirit, Noah starts building an ark, with the help of his loving wife Naameh (the severely underused Jennifer Connelly), sons Ham (Logan Lerman) and Shem (Douglas Booth) and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). However as the storm approaches, and the dastardly villain Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) seems hellbent on halting Noah’s endeavour, the once calm, assertive man edges ever closer to breaking point.
Considering who is at the helm, Noah is not quite as experimental and forbidding an affair as you might hope. While this does veer towards some dark, disquieting themes in the latter stages, there’s a somewhat overelaborate fantastical edge that remains prevalent, devaluing the study of character, and removing the strand of intimacy that the film requires. Of course the story of Noah is surreal and overstated, so you can’t expect a kitchen sink drama, but this deviates carelessly away from subtlety. Though certainly admiring the ambition and scope of this piece, it’s all too convoluted, and as such we don’t get a sense for the unique observation of the human condition that serves this director’s work so well.
While tedious in parts, this rather extraordinary piece certainly picks up when the conflict between the townspeople and Noah begins, as the combat scenes, reminiscent of the battle of Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, elevates this picture somewhat, and when Noah starts to lose his mind, that’s when things start to get rather interesting. The eponymous lead is beguiling, as he never quite lets the audience in, as Crowe, who begins to resemble an ageing, jaded rockstar as the film progresses, turns in something of an emotionally detached performance. The film suffers as a result, as unlike Black Swan or The Wrestler, for instance, we never truly get beneath his facade and explore his mind. It doesn’t help that the focus of the film is ambiguous, as the traditional, biblical story we all know so well is overhauled by the family dynamic, and Noah’s aversion to Ila’s pregnancy.
That said, some of the interludes between scenes are impressive, appearing almost like stop motion, resembling the storybooks we’d read as children, which enhances the notion of universality this narrative provides. This is undoubtedly a memorable, striking cinematic event, and despite whether you enjoy this picture or not, it’s certainly a film for the big screen. However, if there is one thing to take away, is that it’s nigh on impossible to climb a ladder when angry, and make it look good in the process.