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'Noah': Terrific acting trumps the flood

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Noah

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When a movie makes someone like me wish she had paid more attention in Sunday school and almost makes her want to read the Bible, that movie has something going for it. “Noah” is that movie. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, this “Noah” might not be exactly as you remember him or his story, but with Russell Crowe in the lead, the film is compelling, extremely well acted and never boring.

Aronofsky does a terrific job in presenting Noah’s back-story as a child and showing us how and why he became the man he became. When we are introduced to him as an adult, Noah is married to Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and has three sons, one an infant. On the way to a visit with Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), the family comes upon the remains of a deadly battle scene, with a young girl, Ila, the only survivor. Noah and Naameh take her with them and raise her as their own. The movie jumps ahead in time and the young sons are now young adults, Shem (Douglas Booth) and Ham (Logan Lerman), and Ila (Emma Watson) is a young woman in love with Shem. Additionally the infant, Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) is now a young boy.

Noah has visions and believes that God wants him save the world from itself. There will be deadly floods to deal with the sins of man-kind. To begin God’s work, Noah builds an ark to load the earth’s animals and his family onto it, escape, and begin life anew. In his efforts to please God, Noah takes drastic steps, some of which greatly alienate his family, causing all of them much heartache. To tell more would inhibit one’s enjoyment of the film.

Most of Aronofsky’s special effects are mesmerizing…the underwater scenes, the floods, the flocking birds…all are spectacular. The one misfire is the Watchers. They spring up like alien creatures from the “Transformers” and take one out of the movie. This is Aronofsky’s vision, not mine, so in the words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?” But for me, this just doesn’t work.

What does soar and rise above most films in this genre is the acting. “Noah” may be Crowe’s best work in years. Fantastic throughout, his quiet speeches such as the one in which he tells the story of creation, are simply astounding. Jennifer Connelly’s Naameh is eloquently powerful in her down-to-earth talks with Noah and Ila, and she and Crowe have terrific chemistry together. Also quite good is Emma Thompson. She has some amazing scenes with Connelly and Crowe and is just plain fabulous. Ray Winstone, as Noah’s arch nemesis, Tubal-cain, gives his character a layered, villainous quality—not just a one note performance. Finally, although seen briefly, Anthony Hopkins’ Methuselah is spot-on.

“Noah” is more than two hours long, but you won’t be looking at your watch. It might not be the Noah neither you or I remember, but on its own, “Noah” is memorable.

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