The biblical tale of Noah is thousands of years old, yet it still resonates in this powerful new film starring Russell Crowe.
This is director Darren Aronofsky’s first movie since Black Swan, so don’t expect the kiddies’ version of Noah that you heard growing up.
There’s no pretty wooden boat, no bearded guy standing with an elephant while a rainbow shines above.
Aronofsky’s interpretation is a brutal one.
Primal, violent and unflinching, it shows the darkness of humanity and, in doing so, makes you look at the state of the globe today.
The director takes creative licence with the story, in which the Creator (the word “God” is never uttered) essentially decides to wipe out humans by unleashing a devastating flood.
The story is fascinating, but fundamentalists are sure to be upset at the variations. Using offbeat animation, Aronofsky shows an excellent interpretation of Creation and creates strange fallen angels called The Watchers, which are craggy rock creatures that limp about on earth.
The main focus is on Noah himself and how, after experiencing visions, he and his family (played by a strong cast including Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson) prepare for and survive the great deluge.
Crowe is commanding in the lead role, delivering a performance reminiscent of his Gladiator days. Noah’s faith is seriously tested as he comes to realise carrying out the Creator’s task is far more horrifying than saving some animals.
Connelly and Watson give it their all, but with so much screaming and crying (not to mention long close-ups), their performances sometimes feel borderline melodramatic.
This big-budget epic is a bit plodding at times, because you know how everything will unfold. However the moments of action, when hordes try to take over the ark and surges of water pound the earth, are edge-of-the-seat stuff.
Noah leaves audiences with much food for thought – about faith, the state of humanity and the environment.
Noah’s greatest power is the way it makes you step back and look at yourself and the world now. It’s certain to inspire lots of post-screening debates.
* Noah is out in cinemas now.