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'Noah' gives Old Testament a high-tech Hollywood treatment

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Paramount Pictures
Russell Crowe in 'Noah'

Big, beatific and (more or less) Biblical, Darren Aronofsky's “Noah” is a mad vision of a movie, an action/ adventure take on the flood that cleansed the Earth.

Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) envisions this epic through the lens of Hollywood, interpreting the Bible as myth and telling one of its most fantastical tales as a grand and dark cinematic fantasy — a “Lord of the Rains.”

And with Russell Crowe as his “Master and Commander” and shipbuilder, Aronofsky has concocted an accessible, modern and mythic version of this oral history that may make purists blanch even as it entertains the rest of us.

A prologue tells of the spawn of Cain, who spilled blood, left the Garden of Eden, populated the world and made a mess of things. Ten generations later, Noah (Crowe) and his small family (Jennifer Connolly, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth) wander the wastelands, waiting for ... a sign.

Noah's dreams tell him The End is nigh. By fire, his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), wants to know?

“Fire consumes all,” Noah prophesies. “Water cleanses.”

The wicked world “which men have broken” will be flooded, the pure will rise and float above it. The rest? Drowned.

More visions, and Noah starts building an ark.

But out there, in the world begat by Cain, his descendant Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) is offering up an alternative theology. “A man isn't ruled by the heavens. A man is ruled by his will.”

Tubal-cain's violence, meat eating (Noah's people are vegetarians) and weapons are attractive to Noah's son Ham (Lerman, aka Percy Jackson), who has no female companionship in their tiny circle. Shem (Booth) has the foundling they raised, Ila (Emma Watson).

Still, animals gather and are sedated, the ark nears completion, and then the skies darken and empty.

It took guts to change Noah from the pious original naval architect into a two-fisted man of action, and then to cast Crowe in the part. But it works.

Hopkins and Watson and Connolly provide the tale's moving moments — scenes of heart and humility and hope. The acting is of the first rank.

It isn't “The Ten Commandments” and Crowe is no Charlton Heston. But “Noah” makes Biblical myth grand in scope and intimate in appeal.

Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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