Martin Scorsese. Now there’s name you only see so many times, but it’s name that you sure pay attention to. He’s always there to tell a complicated and unique story and is considered to be one of the greatest film makers of our time… probably of all time. So to see the trailer to this flick… I’d say we’re in for a pretty brutal ride. So… based on the trailer, what does it look like it’s about? Well… to be honest, I kind of cheated, but the one site I read said it was about a couple of priests in whose mentor’s been captured by… Asians… and they go and find him to save him…? Yeah, okay, so I wasn’t quite paying attention. To be honest, I didn’t even pick up that they had a captured mentor in the trailer. Listening… it’s never been my strong suit. I’ve got co-workers at my day job that can probably rave for hours… Before this becomes an emo therapy session, all I thought this movie was about was two priests try to go and spread the word of the good Lord to a land without God and get captured themselves. These savage people end up testing their faith and probably a bunch of other shit I got horribly wrong. Eh, trailers are stupid anyway. Going in blinder than a blind-folded Ray Charles into any movie is probably for the best anyway. Anywho, it looks intense, and as I’m writing this thing, I’m sitting in my cinema’s bar drinking Moscato (sparkling wine) killing time until I go in.
So, how about that excitable cast, eh? Andrew Garfield. Dear lord this guy is climbing some prestigious ladders, ain’t he? You’d think playing a superhero would be the pinnacle of an actor’s popularity, but being in those Amazing Spider-Man films seem more like a diving board into an ocean of opportunities. HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), 99 HOMES (2015), he’s doing pretty well for himself. I never read those interviews about how he’s not too beaten up about not playing Spider-Man anymore, but being in both a Mel Gibson-directed, and a Scorsese film, we can probably guess why and say it’s for the best. Love him as an actor, can’t wait to see what Scorsese brings out of him. Adam Driver, a name that’s also on the rise and like Garfield, has struck big in popularity thanks to STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015), and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)… funny enough, I thought SPECIAL was just okay and and I hated Kylo Ren from FORCE AWAKENS, but I think he himself is a great actor. Always hoping to see him bring some mad talent and I would love to see him here. Finally, even though I never saw him in the trailer (again, attention-failure power level over 9,000), Liam Neeson. Yeah, I rant about him all the time, so no more for now. He’s awesome, he’s bad-ass, he’s hilarious, everyone loves him.
Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Scorsese, of course, known for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013), THE DEPARTED (2006), GOODFELLAS (1990) and so many more, but he also co-wrote the script. His partner-in-pen is Jay Cocks, known for DE-LOVELY (2004), GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993). Finally, the cinematographer is Rodrigo Prieto, known for PASSENGERS (2016), ARGO (2012), and BABEL (2006).
Overall, I’m pretty excited for this. I won’t pretend to fully know what it’s about, but I trust Scorsese and the talent that he has attached to his work. This is my honest opinion of SILENCE.
In 17th century Japan, a group of Portuguese Christian priests, led by Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has gone missing for years. His last letter was finally recovered by the church and his closest and most faithful disciples Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) volunteer to verify the validity of the claims that Ferreira has committed apostasy: abandoning the his religious practice. They head toward Japan and come across some Japanese villagers that secretly practice Christianity and the two Portuguese men bare witness to the brutal persecution of the Japanese Christians from the government, and their own faiths tested as the people they claim to save are put in greater risk and their task of locating Ferreira becomes harder and more complicated.
DISCLAIMER: Due to my lack of knowledge of the many variations of religious practices, I would like to apologize to any that might find my habit of interchanging words that, possibly by their very definition, shouldn’t be interchanged.
I’m actually at a loss for words. Uh, not necessarily because I think the movie is that unbelievably good. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I think this is one of those films that isn’t up my alley, but I still greatly appreciate the efforts put into it.
Alright, so the advantage that this film has is that it is a very heavily religious film, but it doesn’t quite act like the bad ones you’d usually think about. Instead of beating you over the head while spouting Bible quotes, the film is much smarter by allowing the audience to empathize with the characters. Rodrigues and Garrpe are men of religion and you can see why. They’re in a country where Christianity is outlawed and punishable by death, their faith and beliefs are what give them hope. These two men give these people strength and hope for a better future, to the point of accepting death if discovered. And their sacrifices reinforce the beliefs of Rodrigues and Garrpe. They really want to help these people.
And… yeah, I think this is one little problem I have with this section of the story. This whole part is one big detour and it seems… a tad unfocused. Rodrigues and Garrpe are there to find their lost mentor, but they seem to spend weeks, even months just sitting around consoling these people. While I’m sure there’s some sort of religious hoo-ha that says they shouldn’t turn their backs on the needy, it’s still a good chunk of the story not dedicated to the ultimate goal. Instead of looking for their master, they’re sitting around. They aren’t coming up with plans or figuring out where to go, or who they’d need to speak with. It’s just a bunch of scenes meant to shock. Not that it’s not educational or anything, this is certainly an interesting time in history and might work in a documentary, but as a story that features characters with a clear goal in mind and do very little to attempt to accomplish it, it doesn’t work here. The plot doesn’t really move forward so much as stagnates in one place. But I suppose one could argue that finding Ferreira isn’t the real point of the story, but rather the tested faith of these two men, which is still powerfully done. I guess I just wish the intended story was a little more centerfold, so probably closer to a nitpick than a true problem because while in the moment watching all of this, I’m engaged and interested.
So hey, I haven’t talked about the actors yet. Garfield? Awesome. As per usual, the man delivers a quality performance. And now that it hits me, this is the second movie where he’s played a deeply religious character (referring to HACKSAW) this year. Fun little coincidence. But anyway, he’s definitely the heart of the film as the one guy who deeply wants to help these people find peace in their country and have the freedom to practice their religious beliefs, but knows how dangerous it is in its current state. But he never hesitates to sacrifice his personal religious belongings to give these people hope. Driver, also really great. Although I do have to ask… both of their characters are supposed to be Portuguese, yet why do their accents seem wildly different? Any linguists out there that can confirm that? Or are my ears just not calibrated to hear the similarities? Anyway, back to Driver. His character is a little more harsh, in the respect that he’s committed to the reasons why they’re in Japan at all, but by contrast to Rodrigues, doesn’t want to stay to help these people. He’s just interested in finding Ferreira. But this doesn’t make him unlikable, as he does join Rodrigues in helping out.
There’s a lot more to say about the good than the bad, but the stuff that didn’t work for me is still present and impossible for me to ignore. But I imagine Scorsese fans are thoroughly pleased with his work here. So if you’re among them, I can definitely see why. It’s a good movie, and I do recommend seeing it. It’s brutal, it’s powerful, it’s interesting, it’s got everything a cinephile could ask for.
My honest rating for SILENCE: 4/5