Director: Darren Aronofsky
There's a lot to praise about this film, but unfortunately it also has an enormous flaw that's pretty insurmountable. There's no doubt that this is the work of an auteur; Aronofsky is a master director who makes some pretty bold decisions for a film so laden with the hallmarks of a studio blockbuster. Firstly there's the decision to spend a good portion of the film examining Noah's psyche and his determination that all mankind should die (including him and his family). Focusing on the human aspect of a tale that is mostly about spectacle is a canny decision and the film is all the better for it. The power-plays between the characters, the resentments, the fear... I loved the idea that all was not hunky-dory on board the ark once they'd set sail. Similarly, the decision to really contextualise that idea of the "sinful world" from which they were all escaping was brilliant. Playing out like Dante's Inferno, the other people populating the Earth are depraved to the point of insanity, possessed by evil, selfish, violent, filled with nothing but gall. There is no love or compassion amongst them and we really see why "The Creator" has decided the only way is to kill them. This world before the flood and then the tensions within the microcosmic ark really do make the film stand out... But there's a problem with the whole film, in the shape of a band of stone monsters called Watchers.
However, Russell Crowe is perfectly cast; gruff, manly, conflicted, sitting somewhere between religious fanaticism and duty - it's a very modern performance for a film about the Bible. Connelly too gives a weighty performance and flexes her acting muscles in a way I haven't seen from her in years. Watson does little beyond her usual doe-eyed nothingness, which is a shame after her sensational role set the screen alight in last year's The Bling Ring, while Winstone and Hopkins give very characteristic support, but the real star of the show here is the CGI. And the flood itself is exactly as you'd hope; violent, incessant and terrible. With striking vistas that show the dying clinging to mountaintops, the reality of the Death of Humanity is suddenly very real and far from that sanitised children's tale in which humanity is very complacently dispatched outside the confines of the ark. What "The Creator" does to the people is brutal and we do see it as such. Meanwhile the more cutesy elements of the story (animals, doves, rainbows) are exiled to almost footnotes, in a film that focuses on the human plight of the story.
It's a real shame that Aronofsky's first studio picture appears to have been so influenced by studio interference. The inclusion of the Watchmen can surely not be of his choosing, while the extent of Winstone's role is arguably a little overdone. This is a long way from Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream and I can't help but wonder if this might have been quite the mistake for the Oscar-nominated director. The film is certainly ambitious, but conflict between his artistic vision and the studio's demand for commercial appeal has left this a confusing piece of cinema. It's enjoyable certainly, but did the gamble on a Biblical actually pay off? I'm not convinced.