Trail­ing legends

Rus­sell Crowe’s noah buoys an unsink­able ca­reer arc.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - By MARK LAW­SON

WHETHER be­cause of deep per­sonal am­bi­tion or a sense of hav­ing come to Amer­i­can cinema as an out­sider, the New Zealand-born Rus­sell Crowe’s role choices have of­ten sug­gested a de­sire to be­long to great Hol­ly­wood tra­di­tions.

Gla­di­a­tor looked back to his­tor­i­cal block­busters such as Cleopa­tra and Ben-Hur, Cin­derella Man joined the line of box­ing movies that in­cludes Rag­ing Bull, and Robin Hood di­rectly over­lapped with one of the sig­na­ture per­for­mances of an ear­lier lead­ing man from the An­tipodes, Er­rol Flynn. Even Crowe’s re­cent cameo in Man Of Steel – as Su­per­man’s dad – hap­pened to take on a part for­merly played by a cinematic le­gend, Mar­lon Brando.

And now the his­tory man seems to be at it again. His big 2014 re­lease, Noah, chan­nels Charl­ton He­ston and the bi­b­li­cal ex­trav­a­gan­zas such as Ce­cil B. DeMille’s The Ten Com­mand­ments, that were pop­u­lar in the 1940s and 1950s. By strik­ing co­in­ci­dence, Crowe as Noah, di­rected by Dar­ren Aronof­sky, will be go­ing head to head with Chris­tian Bale as Moses in Ri­d­ley Scott’s Ex­o­dus, an­other retro-re­li­gious film.

As these movies fol­low the 10hour Amer­i­can se­ries The Bi­ble, it’s clear that Chris­tian­ity is hot in US cul­ture for rea­sons that may com­bine the cur­rent cul­tural power of the re­li­gious right, the cheap­ness of the ma­te­rial (scrip­ture is out of copy­right) and the fact that many of the set pieces in the good book – floods, plagues, sieges at walled cities – hap­pily par­al­lel the plots of dis­as­ter movies.

Re­veal­ingly, the mar­ket­ing line on Noah, in posters and an early trailer, presents the bearded boat­builder as “a man try­ing to pro­tect his fam­ily”, and one of the clips re­leased so far shows Crowe de­liv­er­ing the line, “It be­gins!”, which tra­di­tion­ally cues the un­leash­ing of the spe­cial ef­fects in apoc­a­lyp­tic films. The bi­b­li­cal story of the Flood is es­sen­tially The Day Af­ter To­mor­row with a bit of a the­o­log­i­cal sub­plot about divine in­ter­ven­tion.

Ac­tors like to talk about their char­ac­ter’s “arc” and, in play­ing some­one who has an ark as well, Crowe has se­lected a fig­ure with many con­tem­po­rary res­o­nances. The rag­ing el­e­ments against which the rain-lashed fa­ther fights can surely be taken – if mem­bers of the au­di­ence so choose – as metaphors for ter­ror­ism, the econ­omy or, in­deed, in these en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious times, the weather.

For Crowe, Noah feels like a canny choice. It is a role in which for an ac­tor sud­denly to look older – Crowe will reach 50 next year – will be re­garded as re­al­ism rather than de­te­ri­o­ra­tion; it would look odd if he hadn’t gone grey and whiskery. And Noah’s arc re­quires him to be tremen­dously brave and ma­cho, while also demon­strat­ing no­table kind­ness to an­i­mals: a crowd-pleas­ing com­bi­na­tion of at­ti­tudes that would be hard to bring off in, for ex­am­ple, a film about a dad pro­tect­ing his kids against ter­ror­ists in mod­ern Detroit, Michi­gan.

Ever since Robin Hood, the ac­cent has been on the per­former’s vo­cal choices, and the trailer sug­gests that Crowe has gone for a throaty rum­ble that might well be the speak­ing voice of a man who has spent a lot of time per­suad­ing large and dan­ger­ous an­i­mals to walk up a plank in pairs.

And, for Crowe, the per­for­mances con­tinue to come in two-bytwo: walk­ing by the side of Flynn in Robin Hood, Richard Bur­ton in Gla­di­a­tor, Brando in Man Of Steel and, now, Charl­ton He­ston in Noah. — Guardian News & Me­dia

Walk­ing with ti­tans: rus­sell Crowe’s ca­reer choices have walked him side by side with legends; even in ManofS­teel, he took on the role of Jor-el, Su­per­man’s bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, a role once played by Mar­lon brando.

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