“Is this the end of everything?” asks Ila (Emma Watson). “It’s the beginning, the beginning of everything,” answers Noah (Russell Crowe) to his soon to be daughter-in-law as they get ready to finish building the Ark to survive an all-consuming world flood in the Biblical epic, Noah.
Struggling to live and raise his children in a respectful and righteous way in a world ruled by evil and violent men, Noah receives a message from God that he is going to destroy the world by water with an apocalyptic flood. Hoping to find a way to avert the catastrophe, Noah and his family travel to see his grandfather Methuselah, (Anthony Hopkins) – another chosen by God – to see if he knows of any way to stop it. Claiming his father said that if man didn’t change his wicked ways, God would end the world, Methuselah tells Noah that God speaks to him and suggests that he try to see if anything can be done.
Once more Noah has a vision of a world consumed by water, but this time sees all kinds of different animals swimming up and towards a floating Ark. He realizes God wants him (and his family) to build the Ark to save the animals along with themselves, allowing them to start over once all else has been washed away and the earth is ready to begin again.
Visually breathtaking and powerful, Noah is a biblical dramatic adventure that stays afloat because of the compelling performances and its striking visual effects. Russell Crowe delivers a strong and at times disturbing performance as Noah, a man who never doubts his faith or God’s plan for the world but then becomes dangerous and threatening to even his own family when he begins to misinterpret God’s vision for the new world.
In her first role as a full adult woman, Emma Watson shines as Ila, Noah’s adopted daughter. Noah and his family found her as a little girl wounded after raiders murdered her family and decided to raise her as their own, and now he’s hoping to marry her to his eldest son, Shem (Douglas Booth), whom she loves dearly. It’s one of Emma’s best performances of her career as she conveys the admiration and love she feels for the man she considers her father and later the fear and terror as he becomes her greatest threat aboard the Ark.
Jennifer Connelly also delivers one of her best performances as Naameh, Noah’s wife who is the glue for the family and supports him and his belief in God’s plan for the world but begins to question and stand up against Noah’s take on what the Creator has in mind for their family aboard the Ark and after surviving the flood. She has wonderful chemistry with Crowe (they starred together before as husband and wife in Ron Howard’s Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind), as well as with the rest of the cast.
The look and design of the film is truly stunning. Especially impressive is the Ark, both the actual hand-built-to- actual-size-and-dimensions based on the Bible’s description and the CGI Ark that’s used during the flood scenes.
One of the problems with the film, however, is its attempt to be too ambitious and tell two stories in one. The first half of the film is truly engaging, with Noah and his family first trying to find a way to stop God’s wrath and then dedicating themselves to saving the animals of the world by building the Ark which takes years. The flood and attack of raiders trying to take the Ark for themselves is thrilling. It’s in the second half of the film aboard the Ark where the movie begins to divert away from telling the story of Noah and begins to incorporate other Biblical stories such as ‘Abraham’. The director and writer also begin to turn Noah from being one chosen by God to a Cabin Fever-suffering religious psychopath. It’s certain to upset and disturb most Christians as well as other audience members.
Still, with outstanding special effects and arresting performances, Noah is an absorbing biblical epic which should be seen up on the big screen.
Noah opens in theaters on March 28, 2014 and is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.
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