Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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S1E3: Last night, The Killing proved one thing: it is not fucking around.
After a slow (but still fun, don't get me wrong) start to the series last week, we returned this week for some more creepy suspects, more investigation, and of course, more Seattle rain. But something felt a little different about this episode; and honestly, I'm not quite sure if I can put my finger on what exactly it was. In "El Diablo," the show continued to push the possibility that nearly every person on screen at any moment could be the killer or, at least, be connected to the killer. Combine that with the sinister footage at the end of the episode, and suddenly, we're operating inside of a world where we're not only uncertain of who is who or what is what, but also a world where terrible, terrible things happen. This, I think, is a smart strategy because an hour-long drama that focuses on only ONE murder is bound to feel slow and dragged out at times, so providing an environment that feels almost surreal, a hazy, dreamlike place where everyone's a suspect keeps the audience involved.
"We're still getting married, right?" -Rick
Linden and Holder are still investigating the murder, but it's taking much longer than Linden originally expected. She's been "forced" to stay to help investigate the crime. I used forced with quotations because it appears that inside of Linden's head, there's quite a bit of insecurity and doubt happening. I'm not really quite sure what to make of it, because we really don't know much about her relationship with Rick, and I don't want to say that she's using the murder as a reason to not commit to her new relationship, but at the same time, it's apparent that on some level she's using the murder as a reason to not commit to her new relationship. Undoubtedly, Linden cares tremendously for the Larsen killing and what happened to the family, and she very much wants to solve the crime for them. I don't want to doubt her motives. But with the amount of time the show continues to invest in her and Rick's relationship strife, I can't help but assume that there's some part of her that wants to stay in Seattle just so she doesn't need to deal with those problems.
"El Diablo…" -Janitor Lyndon Johnson Rosales
As the two detectives investigate, they discover, for a moment, a prime suspect: the janitor. His name is Lyndon Johnson Rosales, and he is the only person other than the principal with keys to the "cage" -- the site of Rosie's murder. That suspicion grows after they find he's a sex offender and when they arrive at his apartment, he jumps out of the third story window. But it's revealed that Rosales spent that Friday night drunk so he's quickly removed from the suspect list. The detectives chat with him, and we learn that he saw Rosie with Jasper's best friend, Kris Echols. But all of these reveals don't happen in a jovial, happy way. Rather, Rosales is horrified by what happened and as he recounts it, he can't help but just say "El Diablo, El Diablo…" over and over again -- a fittingly creepy scene for this creepy show.
"You're letting sex cloud your judgment. Screw you." -Jamie
Meanwhile in the political world, things are just as unclear. Richmond discovers -- or at least thinks he does -- the leak in his office: Jamie. But, in the same way that show presents everybody as a potential suspect in the murder investigation, anything that anybody else does ALSO feels very, very suspicious. Right now, there's only one character we can trust and that's Linden (at the same time, with what I discussed above, that might even be a stretch because we're not quite sure what's going on in Linden's head regarding her career or relationships). So, even though there's "proof" of Jamie's leak (a printed email from his work account), it's still presented with a seed of doubt (rightfully too, by the way -- who would send a leak with their work email in 2011?). He claims to be set up, which fits right into the world of The Killing. The show has created an atmosphere where no one can be trusted to do anything. Hell, let's say one of the characters went to pick up coffee for their boss and accidentally used soy milk instead of half and half. In the world of The Killing, even if we watched that person enter and leave the coffee shop, there's still the possibility that somebody else snuck in and messed up the order.
"You told them we were at the dance!" -Kris Echols
Once the detectives discover that Kris was somehow involved with getting Rosie into the cage, they try to talk to him. He denies everything, and we think we've once again hit a wall in the case. Echols has something to do with it, for sure, but the detectives don't have any hard evidence to question him with -- that is, until one of the school teachers reveals a cell phone video he found. It's graphic, but it depicts Rosie Larsen being raped by both Kris and his best friend Jasper, who's wearing a devil mask as he does it.
The build-up to this moment was extremely well-done and proved that, if the audience is willing to be patient, the show will pay off. Sure, it may get tedious spending so much time focusing on only one murder, especially when we're used to shows like Law and Order or Bones where each case is wrapped in an episode. Regardless, this form of storytelling gives The Killing the opportunity to breathe a little bit. People and critics are comparing the show to Twin Peaks, and although that rings true, right now it feels more along the lines of The Wire. I know we're not tapping wires, looking for drugs and dealing with the world of Baltimore, but the show is taking its time flushing out all aspects of the murder: the cops, the family, the politics, the school, everything. Through an unfiltered eye, we're seeing each side of the story as it progresses toward its end goal of whodunit. And you know what? It's working. It's working really, really well.