There’s a moment in Noah when Russell Crowe threatens a child with a song. As Les Mis viewers will attest, this makes for a terrifying moment of tension. When he carries through with the threat, it’s impossible to ever sympathise with such a man again. It doesn’t matter how good your agent is Russell, just stop with the singing, please.
Russell Crowe’s a man very hard to take seriously, with his over zealous seriousness and vaguely-British accents he seems to take great pleasure experimenting with on-screen. After the screening, Darren Aronofsky discussed how the flood narrative is a universal cautionary tale crossing cultures, particularly relevant today considering climate change. Noah is built with a strange sense of epic, epitomised by Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone (Cain) squaring up to each other with the sort of voices that insinuates ‘do you want some, yeah?!’. It’s spoiled by some poor casting choices and a world in which you can’t relate to any decisions the characters make or indeed get a sense of why things are like the way they are. Why has man become so corrupt? Apart from a snarling Ray Winstone, it’s hard to tell if this flood debacle is really necessary. Noah might be thematically relevant to our world but as soon as you scratch below that surface you’re left with a stilted, awkward effort, completely groundless and lacking excitement. It takes an age for the film to get going and once it does go bonkers for 20-30 minutes and the flood waters begin to siege, Aaronofsky finally finds himself comfortable, regardless of the fact he’s not a director you would usually associate with special effects.
Emma Watson does her earnest schtick as she endures a pregnancy in 40 days and 40 nights and Anthony Hopkins sees his face melt as Noah’s weird Grandfather, just about seen under the mask last worn by Emperor Palpatine. It’s not very clear exactly how he fits into this whole thing. There does come a point when you really don’t care if they just all drown.
There are odd flashes of his brilliant and unique style, most notably a rapid segment showcasing the creation of the entire world with mesmerising style. It’s a shame more of the film isn’t shot with such audaciousness. When you’ve got a a vengeful God (or ‘Creator’ as the film prefers) and a pair of antagonists such as Crowe and Winstone playing these biblical hard men, something’s gone astray when everything’s played so carefully. You’ll struggle to find a film trying to have less fun as a $125m epic. It’s not the end of the world, after all.
Noah is out now in the UK and US. Running time 138 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).