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Noah

Cecille B DeMille would find much similarity with ‘Noah’.  Producer of many biblical epics from the 1950’s, his grand vision of holy stories raked in much box office dollars.  This divine cash-cow would never fade with Hollywood continually replicating his successful formula.  Directed by Darren Aronofsky, ‘Noah’ is his most spectacle-driven film to date.  Loaded with CGI, it maintains its myriad of religious imagery the likes of DeMille would have easily spotted.

 

Noah (Russell Crowe) is a carpenter suffering from strange dreams. Haunted by images of a cataclysmic flood, he sets out to protect his family.  They include his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) and son Ham (Logan Lerman).  Building an ark which can withstand any catastrophe, Noah refuses to be scared of other’s ridicule as disaster looms.

 

‘Noah’ is a strange concoction of styles.  Filled with the expected religious sermonising, it copies much from the ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Game of Thrones’ formula.  It has sword fights, battle sequences and even supernatural monsters.  These seem very out of place for such a famed tale.  Had it been filmed in a more believable style ‘Noah’ would have worked better.  The added elements conspire to muddy the often glacially paced narrative with minimal characterisation.

 

Crowe and his co-stars gamely attempt to rise above these set-backs.  Unfortunately their performances become swamped by the excessive and occasionally badly realised CGI.  Aronovsky seems to lose interest with his lack-lustre direction drawing little emotion or depth.  The amazing cinematography is a plus with its mix of gritty climes and searing beauty going some way in papering over the script’s many cracks. 

 

Those hoping for a truer representation of the Noah’s Ark tale will probably be disappointed.  ‘Noah’ fails to fire with its infrequent signs of life doing little to capture the grandiose atmosphere of DeMille’s fabled works.

 

Rating out of 10:  4

 

 

The Monuments Men

There have been many unusual stories arising from World War 2.  Some heartbreaking and others inspiring, no two have been alike.  ‘The Monuments Men’ examines an interesting side to the war.  Charting a team of treasure/art hunters, it explores how works of art have become important symbols to many.  Whilst people are always far more precious than material things, George Clooney’s latest directorial effort has much humanity amidst the character’s often perilous search.

 

Soldier Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is given an important task.  Ordered to gather a group of art historians, his mission is to return artworks stolen by the Nazis.  Going behind enemy lines during the last days of the war, Frank’s team has to rescue artefacts before Nazi soldiers destroy them.  Assisted by artists James (Matt Damon) and Richard (Bill Murray) amongst others, ensuring his strange military platoon makes it out alive becomes paramount to Frank’s increasingly arduous assignment.

 

Based on true events ‘The Monuments Men’ should be more compelling.  That it is not is due to Clooney’s approach.  Portraying events in a very broad sentimental manner, he fails to truly embrace his characters.  Although each has their own moment to shine the episodic nature of their scenes stalls momentum.  The over-long run-time doesn’t help with the whiff of American flag-waving patriotism grating.  Clooney has done better with previous directorial works more memorable.

 

He assembles a good cast doing their best with meagre material.  Murray comes off best as someone over-whelmed by the human tragedy he witnesses.  His more serious sequences are awkwardly mingled with quirky humour which never works.  ‘The Monuments Men’ would have been better as a straight drama which would have made the tale more absorbing.  When focusing on facts it works with the race to find treasures providing an interesting history-lesson.

 

‘The Monuments Men’ follows a long string of fine Clooney-directed films.  Sadly it pales in comparison with a predictable and meandering script.  It has its moments proving historical events are often more fascinating than fictional ones.

 

Rating out of 10:  6