“We will work,” says Noah (Russell Crowe) to wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly). “We will complete the task, then die, like everyone else.” “Have you no mercy?” she asks. “The time for mercy has passed,” Noah says. “Now the punishment begins.” The Flood is punishment from God – whom Noah calls “The Creator.” Noah’s work is to build the ark and save God’s creatures, all of them, except humans, from death by water. Humans, descendents of Cain, the first murderer, have despoiled creation, turning the Garden into bleak, post-apocalyptic landscapes of rock, dry ground and desolation. After the Flood, God’s creatures can begin again, Noah believes. Without humans.
Russell Crowe’s Noah is a zealot, says critic Joe Morgenstern, chosen by God, not because he is a good man but, as Noah says, because he will complete the task. “Nothing more,” he adds. Humorless, uncompromising, free of irony and compassion, he’s prepared to give up his family, if that is God’s will. “We are all being punished,” he says. “Be faithful. That is just.” Jennifer Connelly, compelling as Naamah his wife, is Noah’s opposite. “No,” she says. “I will hate you. You’ll die alone, hated by everyone you loved. That is just.”
Others in the cast include Ray Winston as Tubal-Cain, king of the descendents of Cain who have “broken the world,” as Noah says. “The Creator does not care what happens to us, not since he marked Cain,” says Tubal-Cain. “We are men, and we decide if we live or die.” Anthony Hopkins is Noah’s nonjudgmental grandfather Methuselah. “Who is good?” he says. “Who is wicked? How am I supposed to know what is right?” Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth are Noah’s sons Ham and Shem. Emma Watson is Ila, an orphan who is pivotal in the family drama that dominates the film’s second half.
“Noah” is not your standard Bible movie. A God-fearing human character, Noah’s single-mindedness is both virtue and flaw. He’s prepared to save creation even if it means the end of his own family. Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, “Noah” is cautionary and morality tale, with amazing visuals – especially the arrival of birds, snakes and mammals at the ark – and plenty to talk about afterward, a good thing, I think, in a movie. Naamah has the film’s take-away speech: “He chose you for a reason,” she says to Noah. “He showed you the wickedness of man. He gave you the choice of whether we would continue. Help us to do better this time. Help us to start again.”
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and suggestive content, “Noah” runs 139 minutes. Dark, adult fare.
Bible-story it’s not –
Does Noah save his kids?
That’s Aronofsky’s plot.