The last thing one might expect from a bombastic Hollywood Biblical epic would be religious and theological ambiguity, the bigwigs of Tinseltown being notoriously squeamish at the prospect of alienating a reactionary Christian right and their coin. Remarkably, writer-director Darren Aronofsky has managed just such intrigue, and pointed ecological commentary, in among the blood, wrath and spectacle of this fascinating Old Testament adaptation.
Russell Crowe is perfect as tortured prophet and (presumably history’s first) conscientious vegan Noah, scavenging his way around scorched wasteland – reminiscent of futuristic post-apocalypse fare – after the descendants of Cain ravaged the earth. Following a series of visions depicting the end of mankind, Noah and his family begin construction of a vessel to house two of every animal against the impending flood. Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) and his hordes of meat-eating sinners want a seat on the boat.
Taking a typically stylised approach including abstract dream sequences, jarringly edited montage and a cheeky rattle through evolution, Aronofsky presents humanity’s watery almost-extinction at the hands of a vengeful Creator (God is never mentioned) as cautionary fairytale, questioning both the role of man in the universe and the wisdom of blind faith. Such debate brings new relevance to archaic text and values, and ensures it’s not just the striking visuals that stick in the mind.