***/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras A-
starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins
screenplay by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel
directed by Darren Aronofsky
by Walter Chaw Unapologetic, curious, atavistic in its single-mindedness and simplicity, Darren Aronofsky's Noah is more impactful in the rearview than in the moment. It's got a hell of a wake. The film is beautiful to look at, it almost goes without saying--as grand and ambitious as its ideas, with one sequence depicting what appears to be the case for intelligent design. It's truly audacious. In many ways the movie The Fountain wanted to be in terms of scale (and featuring another Clint Mansell score that sounds every bit like a continuation of themes), Noah is a deeply insane interpretation of one of the Bible's briefest (essentially Genesis 5:32-10:1), most contentious, most instantly-relatable and hence most-beloved of all Old Testament stories. I can only speculate what the Christian response will be (somewhere between mine and Glenn Beck's assignation of it as the "Babylonian Chainsaw Massacre" is my guess), but for an atheist who counts many strong Christians among his friends, this interpretation is full of the menace and wonder that scripture must hold for the devout. It's a stirring creation mythology in that it makes no bones about the interference in the affairs of men by a vengeful God. Likewise, it makes no apologies for the atrocities it represents in its visions of suffering and sin. (I can only imagine what Aronofsky's Sodom would look like.) Noah even finds time for a dialogue about religious fundamentalism and what happens when absolute faith becomes rationale for atrocity. It's a story about the annihilation of 99.9% of human life on the planet that's ultimately about the value of compassion, and it's a critical read of divine texts that skew in that direction. After a series of films attempting to explain the ways of the divine to the mundane, here's hoping for an Aronofsky adaptation at last of "Paradise Lost": a most comfortable marriage of material and artist.