Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Issei Ogata, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Yosuke Kubozuka
Runtime: 2 hrs 41 mins
Martin Scorsese has been a legendary filmmaker for decades, giving us countless masterpieces like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas. He’s not done yet. His two decade passion project Silence is about two Jesuit priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), who leave for Japan after hearing slander that father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) had denounced God in public after attempting to bring the religion to the dangerous country.
While dealing with religious subject matter in movies, you’re touching a sensitive spot. Luckily, Scorsese is a well-known Catholic so if anyone knows how important this is, it’s him. He’s said that he’s been working on this for about 26 years and he’s only waited until now because he just didn’t believe he could pull it off before now. It makes absolute sense because what I saw was an outstanding example of a director who has gained over 50 years of experience and put every second of it into one mind-blowing piece of art. This is one of the most complex films I’ve ever seen, not in plot because there isn’t that much there, but in terms of message and the imperfect argument presented.
People seem to be very divided by this film because they don’t know if they agree with how the film handles it but I think it’s done absolutely perfectly. The fact that it’s being so divisive and almost being entirely ignored by any awards actually makes me believe in its masterpiece status even more because a film that is able to create so much discussion and thought is a film that has succeeded at something rare. It feels like what happened to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written off at first but now we view it as one of the greatest films ever made. The film expertly weaves us through its Christianity vs Japanese Buddhism argument by putting its characters through hell. Rodrigues is the one we see tested the most and Garfield’s performance is absolutely incredible. His faith in God is so well altered with each new struggle he faces as pride starts to become him. His arc throughout this film is immense. The shot where he looks into a stream of water and sees the face of Jesus in the reflection instead of his own is also possibly the greatest shot I’ve ever seen in a film.
We should all be able to agree that this film is sublime from a technical aspect. Every shot in this film is both beautiful and has something to say. The cinematography is so filled with depth that I can say this is the greatest feat in visual storytelling Martin Scorsese has ever achieved. The aerial shots earlier on transitioning into tighter shots later symbolising the waning faith in God that Rodrigues has is a beautiful example. But it’s also a film that is a treat for the ears. This film has the best sound design and specificity since Mulholland Drive and this combined with the visuals alone make this a remarkable achievement in cinema.
But there is also such great acting from the English and Japanese cast (Issei Ogata’s performance as the Inquisitor is outstanding), and the film creates such powerful emotions to really leave you thinking and questioning. That for me is the sign of a fantastic film. The film also tests you with some truly painful scenes of torture and violence that gives it even more sticking power. I have called this film a masterpiece multiple times in this review and that’s because I truly believe it is. I think this is one of the very best films Martin Scorsese has ever made, if not my personal favourite. It is a very long, gruelling masterpiece that does feel its but I was engaged and blown away constantly so I never felt bored. This is a slow, intellectual burn that may not be positioned for multiple viewings but like Schindler’s List, this is something that will profoundly impact you and will most likely stick with you for a very long time.
Summary: With a testy runtime and a slow pace, Silence is for the mature, intellectual crowd who want a beautifully crafted and supremely complex film dealing with very powerful ideas. It may take many years to earn the respect it deserves but I believe it will. I was floored.
Best Performance: Andrew Garfield
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
-Written by Greg Warne