Martin Scorsese once exclaimed that he had wanted to make Silence for close to twenty years, but felt that he was not a good enough director to pull it off at the time. Fast forward years later and here we are, Scorsese’s passion project has finally come to the big screen. The following review for this 1600’s epic will be spoiler free. Make sure to comment at the bottom of the page with your own thoughts.
Silence, as mentioned before, is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson. We follow the journey of two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues and Father Francisco Garrpe (Garfield, Driver) as they journey to Japan in search of their mentor Father Ferreira (Neeson) in a time where the presence of Christianity was outlawed. Throughout their travels, the priests’ faith gets tested in ways they never thought imagined as they deal with persecution from Japanese inquisitors.
It’s more than fair to say that Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors (if not the best director) working today. If you consider yourself to be a movie buff, every one of Scorsese’s works should be a must see. He continues to challenge himself as a director, tackling many different genres of film with movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, and Shutter Island in the last few years alone. Scorsese is a true student of his craft and it appears that he is challenging himself again with an incredibly mature look at faith in Silence.
However, while the coming attractions for Silence have looked pretty harrowing and epic in scope, Silence has been the center of many issues for the distribution company, Paramount Pictures. I have touched on these issues in the past (you can read my thoughts on the late release of the trailer for Silence here), but it is still perplexing to say the least that there hasn’t been a larger marketing push for this movie. Silence was originally suppose to release in 2015, but due to countless issues on set, including the death of a crew member, the film was delayed. There was also reportedly a major battle between Scorsese and the executives of Paramount over the run time of the movie with there reportedly being a four hour cut of the movie at one point in time. The disagreement became so heated that Scorsese threatened to leave the project at one point in time.
I’m happy to report that after sitting through Silence’s two hour and forty-one minute runtime, the film was undoubtedly worth the excessive hair-pulling from executives and time in production.
While every performance in the movie is spot on, I feel it most necessary to praise the works of both Andrew Garfield and Issei Ogata. Just months after blowing us all away with his performance of famed American hero Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s war epic Hacksaw Ridge, Garfield is at it again with another award-worthy performance in Silence. He delivers a very layered performance, expressing the necessary spiritual depth of a very devout priest while emoting the right amount of vulnerability. The main Japanese adversary, played by Issei Ogata, gives an award worthy performance in a supporting role and may possibly be one of the best villains in cinema in 2016. Ogata isn’t overly evil, he even has some charm to his character, but he is well fleshed out as a character and explains his point of view which helps you to even understand where he is coming from. He reminds me a little of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds with the mannerisms he has.
This film is filled with a lot of great things, but its greatest strength may be its exploration of very deep themes that are constantly resonant throughout the film. The idea of silence as part of one’s faith plays out to perfection through the careful direction of Martin Scorsese (who should also get an award nomination). Not only does the film have quite possibly the most powerful message of any movie of 2016, but it takes a controversial topic and does not ever become preachy or tell the audience what to believe. There is much to appreciate from a film that allows you to understand the viewpoint of each side of the conflict. Not only is Silence a lesson of the power of belief, but it is a powerful exploration into human nature. This may be Scorsese’s most mature film to date.
However, this may be a nitpick, but I found a slight editing issue with the movie. Towards the end of Silence, you can somewhat tell where the film was shortened from that reported initial four hour run time. The film uses a device that summarizes events later in Silence that caused the film to “tell” rather than “show” the events of the movie. That being said, I thought the device was used as tastefully as possible by Scorsese to create a satisfying ending to this epic movie.
In the end, Silence is a mature, powerful movie that will reward those who stick through it. It gets an A. This film may not be for everyone, and it is certainly not the most rewatchable film of the year, but I would encourage you to see this movie as it’ll certainly challenge you mentally.
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