Film Review: "Silence"

Theatrical poster of "Silence" (Photo from Silence Movie Facebook page)

Theatrical poster of "Silence" (Photo from Silence Movie Facebook page)

After 27 years in development, director Martin Scorsese finally releases his passion project, “Silence”, starring Andrew Garfield as a Jesuit priest facing oppression in 17th century Japan.

Along with Garfield, the film also stars Adam Driver (Girls, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Yōsuke Kubozuka (Strawberry on the Shortcake), Issei Ogata (The Sun), and Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace).

After word reaches Portugal that Jesuit Missionary Cristóvão Ferreira (Neeson) has publicly denounced the Catholic faith, Priests Sebastião Rodrigues (Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Driver) travel to Japan to verify this claim, where any wrong move could surely mean their deaths, or worse, sacrilege.

This movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes long and it feels like 5 hours and 45 minutes, but that shouldn't deter anybody. This is a thought provoking, emotional, and often brutal, film that analyzes faith in an open and in depth way.

However, it is slow, but it’s not a bad thing by any means. Unlike what many of the trailers suggest, this is not a high-octane rollercoaster ride of a thriller. Scorsese takes his time  to absorb the audience into the screen, making it more emotional and psychologically resonant.

Once the film absorbs its audience, it then takes them on an agonizing journey as it tests their ideas of faith. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. The film is brutal, but not because it’s violent. It is violent, but nothing too overly bloody. Scorsese creates the brutality through a slow pace that shows every painful moment of torture in excruciating detail. It’s a tough film to watch, making its audience feel the torture of its characters, all of whom are terrifically acted.

Andrew Garfield has had quite a year for himself. After starring in “Hacksaw Ridge”, which is also excellent, he comes around and delivers another terrific performance. The dude doesn't hold back in this movie. He manages to get the audience to love, or at least understand, his character's faith, even if they don’t necessarily share that faith. When his character's faith is tested, the audience feels right along with him and understands his struggle.

The only thing that’s dodgy is the Portuguese accent he attempts to put on. He does the best job of the bunch, but slips in and out of quite a bit, especially when he gets really emotional, but the rest of his performance is so good that it’s never too distracting.

Adam Driver does a great job as well. He’s not given nearly as much as Garfield in screen time, but he works with  what he has. His character is much more narrow minded than Garfield’s, who’s more naive, and while this is somewhat of a cliche dynamic, the two work off each other well enough that it feels fresh.

Poster of "Silence" (Photo from Silence Movie Facebook Page)

Poster of "Silence" (Photo from Silence Movie Facebook Page)

Driver’s accent is not very good. It’s consistent, he always has it, but it's not good. It sounds like he found a YouTube video of a Portuguese person, watched it a couple times, and then tried his best to imitate it. Despite this, his acting itself is really good. He gets the audience to feel for his character.

Yōsuke Kubozuka is fantastic in this movie. He plays a character named Kichijiro, an eccentric guide for the priests throughout Japan. When his character is first introduced, he comes across as nothing more than comic relief, but as the story progresses and more is revealed about him--not to spoil anything, but the audience's perspective on him will shift quite a few times. Kubozuka plays Kichijiro as an incredibly complex and morally grey character that sticks with the audience long after the movie is finished.

Both Liam Neeson and Issei Ogata don’t show up very often in the movie, but when they do, they’re great, Issei Ogata especially. Whenever he shows up as Inoue Masashige, he’s an absolute scene chewer. He’s so creepy and yet so funny at the same time. One would think that a character like this would feel out of place in a movie like this, but it doesn't. It just makes him creepier.

Neeson, on the other hand, plays a very subdued character in Ferreira. On the surface, there’s not much going on, but deep down and through very subtle acting, Neeson portrays probably the most complex character in the entire film, and he does it wonderfully. He doesn’t even try with the accent, though. For some reason, there’s a Portuguese priest running around with an Irish accent, but like the others, it doesn’t ruin the movie.

Scorsese has made a career out of exploring his Catholic faith, and “Silence” will sit alongside “The Last Temptation of Christ” as among the most unrestrained looks into the subject. It’s a punishing film, both emotionally and psychologically. Despite some mediocre Portuguese accents, all of its performers step up to the plate to connect the audience to one of the most brutally resonant films of 2016.