Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson
I must admit, the story of Noah's ark is one I've found myself struggling with more and more the older I get. How on earth did we (and by "we", I mean Church, Sunday School and Christian culture generally) take a gruesome story in which the world's entire population is wiped out, and turn it into a cutesy tale about a jolly old man taking some animals on a joyride in a big boat?
Thankfully, Darren Aronofsky's adaptation of the story is far from cutesy. It's not a literal reading of Genesis chapters 6-9, but Aronofsky and co-screenwriter Ari Handel use the whole Old Testament as source material, along with other Jewish texts that expand on the flood story.
And so we flash through the Creation and the fall of mankind; we have the Nephilim presented as enormous stone-people, and the overarching battle between good and evil personified in a feud between Cain's descendants (led by Tubal-Cain, played menacingly by Ray Winstone) and those of Adam and Eve's other son, Seth – from whose line Noah is descended. Anthony Hopkins portrays Methuselah as a young-at-heart great-granddad.
Russell Crowe plays Noah as a man who's not sure that he qualifies to carry out the big task he's been entrusted with, but who nevertheless commits to it with ruthless efficiency. Emma Watson steals the show as Ila – Shem's infertile wife, who becomes the catalyst in helping Noah see the flood as a new beginning for mankind, rather than as its end.
As I've said before, Noah is not a literal reading of the Bible story. But Aronofsky treats his source material with great respect, and uses it to craft a compelling story which urges its viewers to think about (and, hopefully, discuss) issues such as judgement, justice, responsibility and mercy.
Also – giant rock-like monsters! What's not to like?
Editor's note: Free resources for churches to use with the film are available here