Thursday, January 19, 2017

Movie Review: "Silence" (2016)

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Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 41 minutes

Two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver), go to Japan, where Christianity is outlawed, to search for and continue the work of their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is rumored to have abandoned his faith.

"Silence" is directed by Martin Scorsese, who also wrote the film along with Jay Cocks. This film is based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô. It stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuit priests Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe, the last two priests to embark upon a dangerous mission to Japan to spread the word of Christ. These men are also tasked with locating their missing mentor, Father Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson, who is rumored to have apostatized, or renounced his faith publicly, a rumor neither of them are willing to believe.

The first thing we must say about "Silence" is that it is a stunningly beautiful film. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, some are even breathtaking. Of course, being a Scorsese film, one can only expect such alluring shots from a seasoned veteran like him. Beyond the visuals, Andrew Garfield puts on a brilliant, Oscar-worthy performance as the Jesuit priest with a crisis of faith. He is a man who sees the suffering of Japanese Christians and wants to end that suffering, but may have to renounce his own faith to do so. He battles internally the hows and whys God lets them suffer so greatly. As this movie takes place in 17th century Japan, Christianity was outlawed at that time, and those who believed were forced to apostatize or face a torturous execution in a varied manner of ways, including being drowned, being burned alive, or being hung upside-down and bled dry. Adam Driver is also very good in this film, offering a deeply emotional performance as well. Driver lost 50 lbs. for what is a much smaller supporting role, and though his accent may be a bit iffy, his performance is solid. Speaking of accents, we doubt there was a huge focus on them given that Liam Neeson doesn't even attempt to sound like anything but an Irishman despite his character being from Portugal. The supporting cast, featuring Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ogata, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, and Ciarán Hinds, is excellent as well.

Despite a truly tremendous display of acting and amazing visuals, and even with what may seem to make a compelling story, "Silence" failed to truly grip us the way we hoped it would. It is an extremely slow paced film full of dense, hard-hitting subject matter, and not just for those who are religious and/or for those who have lost their faith. It doesn't do itself any favors by adding an almost three hours run time on top of its molasses-slow speed. Don't get us wrong, we have loved Scorsese's other, long/er films from throughout his body of work, and we don't have short attention spans whatsoever. In fact, if done well, the longer the film, the better (because we never want it to end). This movie, however, is full of elongated spans of nothingness, and though that may be intentional as per its namesake, it doesn't always make for compelling cinema. We remember being excited when seeing the trailer, which had such a raw intensity to it, but the actual film only occasionally enters into exciting territory. It is sometimes difficult to watch because of the torturous nature of what's going on on screen, and we're not even talking about the literal torture that takes place. While those moments do invoke an emotional response, these instances are few and far between.

Frankly, "Silence" is just a little too unceasing a little too often to quite live up Scorsese's past offerings. Don't get us wrong, this is a good and technically proficient movie. Marty is clearly impassioned by this subject matter, but overall, it is not a great film for us despite its tremendous cinematography, directing, and acting.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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