The idiom “your mileage may vary” is incredibly applicable to a film such as Noah, so let me get a few things out of the way: I am not religious and I only had a cursory knowledge of the story of Noah’s Ark (I’ve forgotten whatever I learned years ago in Hebrew school). With that in mind, I found Noah to be a strangely rewarding cinematic experience. Darren Arnofsky’s gone big before, such as in The Fountain–which I strongly disliked but need to revisit– but due to the biblical nature of this story, he’s playing with his biggest canvas yet.
Noah doesn’t feel like your average historical blockbuster. There are touches of Arnofsky’s previous works present, such as the repetition of key shots, which give it a unique feel from the opening frame. It’s mostly The Watchers that struck me as something different. As the general audience has been inundated with CGI monster and creature after the next over the last fifteen plus years with similar designs, The Watchers visuals really stood out to me. They truly felt as if they came out of a Ray Harryhausen film, all stop-motion and unnaturally moving. Though not all of the CGI works, but I’m especially appreciative that Arnofsky opted to build a practical ark.
I’m not going to put a spoiler alert on a portion of The Bible, so I will say I was taken aback by Noah’s actions in the third act. From a screenwriting perspective, it’s almost the ultimate conflict to present, a sort of religious Sophie’s Choice. Russell Crowe, who early on the film takes a calm yet determined demeanor in playing Noah, doesn’t choose to play the latter part of the movie with batshit crazy eyes or screaming. Rather, he presents Noah as a man almost possessed by a duty that he must fulfill. Though no one gets the opportunity to shine here–the performances are largely wooden, as if the actors were afraid to inject these historical figures with any real personality–I really appreciated Crowe’s turn in Noah.
The score was so largely forgettable that I had to think back to remember if there were any pieces of music throughout. Perhaps that’s a good thing, in that Arnofsky didn’t go for something grandiose that would distract from the narrative. There are parts that were silly but nothing felt preachy, which I appreciated. Noah is far from perfect, but it’s a worthwhile viewing, regardless of your mileage.