In the long forgotten movie “Billy Jack” (1971), Buffy Sainte-Marie sings the memorable line, “Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end.” Religion has been used through the centuries to justify killing, brutality and slavery, and it is no less different in today’s world.
Centering on man’s inhumanity to man, director Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” is a masterful work of philosophical art. Having the courage to re-imagine the Bible, the film presents a captivating story where Noah is trying to do God’s will. In the process, Mr. Aronofsky focuses on one question, namely, did God intend on the destruction of all human beings after the death of Noah?
Human beings are displayed a few generations after Adam and Eve as sinister, egotistical machines who view killing as a symbol of manhood, rape as an obligation and the eating of animals as the source of strength. If God was disappointed then, he or she must be taking Xanax to fight depression today.
As Noah, Russell Crowe has not been this overpowering since his Oscar winning role in “Gladiator” (2000). A vegetarian who is dedicated to protecting life in all of its magnificence, he builds an ark to help create a world that existed before God mistakenly placed Adam and Eve on the Earth.
Jennifer Connelly is Naameh, Noah’s wife and friend. She watches over her three sons and adopted daughter, and must decide what agonizing path to follow when Noah’s interpretation of God’s will could destroy her family.
Ms. Connelly could very well be the most powerful actress of our time. Consistently flying under Hollywood’s radar screen, she has always elected to appear in dark, challenging films like “Mulholland Falls” (1996); “Requiem for a Dream” (2000); “Blood Diamond” (2006); and “Creation” (2009). She is memorable at every turn.
While Anthony Hopkins adds strength to a small role as Methuselah, Noah’s grandfather, Ray Winstone dominates as Tubal-cain, a twisted wreck of a man who could lead any number of countries in the 21st century. As you watch him and his followers randomly kill humans as they eat peaceful animals, there really is no wonder as to how 25 million passenger pigeons living in North America when the English arrived were exterminated by the 20th century. Tubal-cain would have been proud that the same thing almost happened to the buffalo.
Emma Watson is heartbreaking playing Noah’s adopted daughter, Ila, a young woman who simply wants to have the ability to have a child with Shem, Noah’s actual son (Douglas Booth). Her enormous contribution to the Harry Potter series was not accidental, and she must in the end stand face-to-face with Noah to decide whether her newborn twins live or die. You know the answer, but you still hold your breath.
The beauty of “Noah” is that it forces you to look into mankind’s soul. Our Creator has to be disgusted with our lack of progress.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Director Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is not a spectacular movie, but it is spectacularly entertaining. Let me simply say that while “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has plot shortcomings, you really don’t care. There is not a single character who you won’t embrace, and there follows frequent moments of colossal enjoyment.
The film begins in 1968, where the struggling Grand Budapest Hotel’s mysterious owner is telling a poignant history taking everyone back to 1932. F. Murray Abraham captures your heart as he tells his story to a writer (Jude Law), documenting his rise from a lowly lobby boy to the man in charge.
What unfolds is a wondrous saga relating to M. Gustave, an eccentric concierge, and his relationship to Zero Moustafa, a young lobby boy. Ralph Fiennes is a gift from the cinematic gods as Mr. Gustave, a man dedicated to running the hotel as he seduces wealthy widows who patronize this exotic establishment. He demands much of everyone, which includes the requirement that all of his aging love interests have blonde hair.
Gustave’s life unravels when he is bequeathed a priceless painting when his most recent darling, played by an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, suddenly dies and remembers him in her will. Forced to run when Ms. Swinton’s heirs savagely turn on him, his adventures, which include a time in prison, are too priceless to describe.
The charm of this cinematic treat flows from Gustave’s adventures with his lobby boy. Gustave treats the young lad as a member of his family, and there follows some sensationally comic moments. Wait ‘til you hear Gustave address armed soldiers, who are about to take Zero into custody, with the immortal admonition, “Take your hands off my Lobby Boy!”
The stellar cast includes small roles by Adrien Brody, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton and Tom Wilkinson. Even during the film’s most serious moments, all of them are sublimely ridiculous at every turn.
I should also mention the moving performance by Saoirse Ronan, playing an important role as our lobby boy’s love interest. Bearing a large tattoo on her right cheek, she simply wants to find a way where they can escape the authorities and live peacefully. Ms. Ronan reminds you of her immense talent as seen in “The Way Back” (2010) and the extraordinary “Hannah” (2011).
While Mr. Anderson’s prior films such as “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004) and “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007) were disappointments, “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001) is one of the great films of our time. Furthermore, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) come very close to that high standard.
All of his principal characters are flawed human beings, which makes them identifiably normal. Dripping with crazy idiosyncrasies that they try to use to their advantage, you end up rooting for them whether they succeed or fail.
The film is not just fun and games, as there are moments that will leave you a bit wistful. See if you leave the theater with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.