By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn - You Can Find Several Other Reviews By Jack Dignan Here As Well
Martin Scorsese, one of the most iconic directors of all time, has been trying to get this film made for nearly three decades. When a director of Scorsese’s magnitude has been so passionate and so persistent with such a project, expectations are high. He’s a director of great talent; my personal favourite of all time, and the wait for this film has felt like a lifetime. I’ve been hearing about this film for a many number of years, and now SILENCE is finally hitting the silver screen. After all this time, it’s easy to see the appeal Scorsese has had for so many years. SILENCE is not just a film… it’s an experience.
Based on the acclaimed, yet supposedly un-adaptable novel by Shûsaku Endô, SILENCE is a story of faith. We begin by learning of a Jesuit priest, Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has surrendered the faith while over in Japan. Ferreira was once held in high regard, mentoring the two young priests who serve as our protagonists, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver). Upon hearing the news, they insist on travelling to Japan and searching for him, refusing to believe that what they’re hearing is true. With permission granted by Father Valignano (Ciarán Hinds), the two ambitious priests begin their treacherous journey.
Upon arrival in Japan, Rodrigues and Garupe are instantaneously forced into hiding. Their mission is to be a complete secret, as practicing Catholicism is outlawed. All of those who are found practicing it and all of those who study it are persecuted until they surrender their religion. It becomes the ultimate test of faith for our two lead priests as they’re forced to battle with religion, violence and hunger. Will they succeed in their mission? Or has Father Ferreira truly given up the faith?
When the film came to a close and the credits begun, aided by the sound of silence, I had to take a moment to soak in everything I’d just witnessed. I sat in my seat simply thinking about everything, and I couldn’t help but say to myself “wow.” SILENCE a film so powerful and emotional that it impacted me in countless different ways. Few films are able to knock me out of my seat quite like SILENCE did. Scorsese is the best for good reason, and when this had finished, I was stunned. It’s an absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous movie that deserves every bit of awards recognition it can get.
The film sees a more restrained Scorsese taking the helm, delivering a harrowing tale of religion. Gone are most of Scorsese’s usual traits and tricks, fully restraining himself to deliver a near-flawless movie-going experience. The story cuts deep, even for someone like myself who isn’t necessarily a religious person. I am a Catholic, but I don’t study or practice it. When it comes to SILENCE, this doesn’t matter. It’s a film that’s so much more than merely a tale of religion. SILENCE is about perspective, opinions and beliefs, while also serving as a fast-based recount of historical importance. It’s an eye-opening cinema experience and easily one of the best films of 2016/2017.
As the film is set during a time where Catholicism was outlawed in Japan, what we get is a difficult to watch, lengthy and unforgettable tale. The Jesuits in the film are put through hell time and time again, their commitment to their faith never going without punishment. It’s a tale with the power to put you to tears, the storytelling skill on display only capable of being created by a master of the art of filmmaking. There are no other films out there quite like SILENCE. The adventure that takes place is one that’s truly unforgettable. Oh, and that ending… oh my. That ending…
While on the topic of brilliance, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the sheer magnificence that is the performances delivered by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver. Garfield gets a lot more screen time than Driver does, but both are equally excellent. They always manage to be at the top of their game, sporting foreign accents and physically transforming themselves to better suit their roles. The desperation and vitality of their mission is made noticeable through their acting capabilities, and the dedication to their art is something well beyond admirable.
Not only did they both starve themselves to have a much skinnier physique, Garfield (and hey, maybe even Driver too) was running on just a few hours of sleep day after day. He’s discussed in length his experiences with this, as well as his experiences finding faith and being able to really get inside the mind of his character. He’s described it as a challenging process that’s ultimately worthwhile in order to find faith in all walks of life. The interviews are fascinating, and I highly recommend checking them out to see how dedicated he was to this movie. It pays off, as this is his best performance to date.
Discussions of Liam Neeson’s role in this film should be kept to a minimum. He’s not in the film much, merely at the start and most of the third act. What has become of his character is the catalyst for this story. To say anything that happens would be considered a spoiler. However, what is safe to discuss is his performance. If you’re in a Scorsese film, there’s almost no way your performance is going to be bad. That man knows how to direct, and with Neeson, who’s reuniting with Scorsese for the first time since GANGS OF NEW YORK, he delivers. His performance is shocking and real, allowing for some of the more unsettling yet brilliant scenes to take place. There is one in particular that’s an absolute standout in my mind, and one of the most powerful moments from this whole film.
SILENCE is a film that will hit hard for all who watch, no matter what your religious views are. It’s a beautiful, yet harrowing movie-going experience that’s a lengthy, difficult viewing, but one that’s worthwhile. I love it. Martin Scorsese has done it again. SILENCE is one of his more unforgettable movies.
4 1/2 Stars
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