Silence FILM REVIEW
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida
Rated R for some disturbing violent content
Running Time: 2 hours 41 minutes
****1/2 out of *****
Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) journeys to Japan to find a fellow Jesuit priest and has his faith tested every step of the way in Martin Scorsese's SILENCE.
Being atheist, born and raised a Roman Catholic, has certainly had an impact on how I watch a film which is steeped in religion and the matter of faith. 'Faith-based' films can be so heavy-handed and preachy that they can easily cloud my ability to enjoy them even the slightest. While I respect all faiths I don't like to be preached to especially while I'm relaxing in a movie theatre which for me is my church. In 1988, Martin Scorsese gave us THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. At the time, I found it to be a powerful film that truly drove home the sacrifice Jesus Christ made to save the faithful. For me it not only worked as a faith reaffirming film but also as a pure motion picture and still does. Nearly thirty years later Scorsese brings us SILENCE, a film which at its core is about faith. Scorsese not only delivers another powerful film but one of the best films of 2016.
The film is based upon the novel of the same name written by Shûsaku Endô. Two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues, played by Andrew Garfield, and Father Garrpe, played by Adam Driver, travel to Japan to find their mentor Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, who is believed to have apostatized. Right off the bat they, as well as the audience, are well aware of the dangers which lie ahead. Over the course of the film these characters face emotional, philosophical, intellectual quandaries that truly put their faith to the test. In turn, some viewers will find themselves in the same boat as they are left to ponder just what they would do in any given situation while others will be engrossed by the compelling clash between cultures and beliefs.
Scorsese's film is not a pontificating piece, far from it, but is an engaging and fascinating look at the nature of faith. What is faith? What quantifies your level of devotion? What's the point? What's the meaning of it all? Why is yours better than mine? Who's to say it is or isn't? These questions may seem rudimentary but are at the core of understanding faith. Unlike many "faith-based" films that have come before, the messages presented within fuel some truly riveting drama. Sides are not taken, arguments are won and lost, faith is shaken and questioned. The story proves to be thought-provoking and compelling as Scorsese and company explore the many intricacies and complexities one may find as the film unfolds.
Andrew Garfield delivers an award-worthy performance as a devout man who is forced to examine the depths of his devotion. He really drives home the mental and emotional anguish this priest is enduring in the face of unbearable adversity. Adam Driver is also solid as he portrays a man who's equally as devout but his actions, while well intended, at times don't gel with those of his fellow priest. Liam Neeson is great as the man at the center of this journey, Father Ferreira. Who is he and why did he apostate? It's not a spoiler, it's kind of expected, but when these two finally meet we are gifted with a fantastic scene where words prove to be mightier than the sword. It is certainly a highlight in the film. Not to be out done are Issey Ogata, as The Inquisitor, and Yōsuke Kubozuka, as Kichijiro. Ogata's character would seem to be the antagonist in this piece but considering the circumstances they is no pure villain to be found here. Ogata is charming, funny and engaging. Kubozuka's character feels like the comic relief but the humor is derived from his actions and while they may seem humorous they hold a great deal of gravitas and meaning.
Scorsese has been working to bring this novel to the silver screen for nearly thirty years. As he often does, he tells a compelling story via great imagery and through great performances. The film is well photographed, edited, it doesn't feel as long as its running time implies, and scored. He's taken a subject that could be at once divisive and presents it in a way that could be understood and accessible to anyone on either side of it. Instead of walking out of the theatre pointing fingers it will likely spark dialog and meaningful conversation. SILENCE is a profound and affecting film which presents all sides and leaves it to the viewer to decide just where the characters' faith lies and in turn the meaning and depth of their own. As I stated this is one of the best films of 2016 and easily one of the best religious films in decades.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal