Solid bloke in tale of human greed
Every now and then a movie comes along that is so out-there it defies all logical expectations and actually works.
Writer-director Darren Aronofsky has a track record of this sort of thing.
In 2008 he resurrected Mickey Rourke's career and received critical acclaim for The Wrestler. In 2010 he had a massive hit when he combined ballet with horror and gave us Black Swan.
Four years later he is back with his most ambitious and in many ways craziest film to date, Noah (M).
Starring Russell Crowe, Noah is upsetting some Christians for veering miles from the story they know and love, while some Muslims are unhappy it contradicts the Koran. The film is even banned in a bunch of Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
I think the fact it's upsetting people on both sides of that particular divide tells you Aronofsky has probably pitched Noah about right.
In terms of ideas, it's the biggest film we've seen this year.
Aronofsky manages to cram everything from faith and the nature of man to madness and even the politics of vegetarianism into the story. More than anything, though, Noah is a film about the environment, and it's a staunch one at that.
Reminiscent of The Road, Noah takes an unblinking view of humanity's potential for self-destructive greed. Unsurprisingly, it also takes a very Old Testament view of justice.
Crowe's Noah is a solid bloke; a loving family man living in harmony with what's left of nature who is one day unfortunate enough to be contacted by The Creator. Unhappy with the state of the world, The Creator decides to wipe humanity off the map and instructs Noah to save his family and the only real innocents left, the world's animals.
With the help of fallen angels (told you it was out-there) Noah and his family build the ultimate life raft. The world's critters turn up but annoyingly so does a scumbag king who has no desire to drown and insists that Noah hand over the ark.
Joining Crowe are the far-too-skinny-for-her-own-good but superbly talented Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Emma Watson as a girl the family adopts, Anthony Hopkins as Noah's grandfather and Ray Winstone as the aforementioned troublesome monarch.
Crowe gives what is arguably his best performance in a decade as the devout but troubled man with the world on his shoulders. Connelly, who won an Oscar when she appeared opposite Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, again shines as his better half. The most under-rated actress of her generation, Connelly doesn't get to do much but when her big dramatic scene arrives she nails it.
Winstone is reliably raucous, Watson shows real depth and Hopkins reveals a softer side.
Noah is big, bold and brave. With the environment looking increasingly munted, its timing is perfect.
You have to credit Aronofsky for recognising how relevant the ancient story at the heart of his film is to the planet's current predicament.
You also have to take your hat off to the guy for taking a tale we've all heard 100 times and turning it into something as thrilling, scary and disquieting as Noah.
Those unable to leave their issues with religion at the door will struggle but for others the film offers a rare and challenging big screen experience.
BOTTOM LINE The love it or hate it film of the year.
Also screening: Pompeii (M) Titanic in sandals.