After their mentor is lost in Japan and has reportedly surrendered the faith, two Jesuit Priests travel to the country to find him at a time when Christianity was outlawed and the presence of missionaries was forbidden.
Martin Scorsese's latest is a project he's been wanting to make for over two decades and the wait was definitely worth it. Scorsese tells the story of two Christian missionaries who travel to Japan after hearing their mentor denounced God in public. They refuse to believe this rumour and set out to find him and bring him home. Whilst there they also try and help the Japanese Christians who are living in fear of being discovered and persecuted.
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Adam Driver (Paterson) star as the two Jesuits who set off on this mission and both deliver excellent performances. Driver is certainly more of a supporting character with Garfield taking up most of the screen time. Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls) plays their mentor and plays a very important but small role. Garfield will probably get nominated for his work here and it's fully deserved, this is unlike anything we've ever seen from the actor.
Scorsese is a legend of cinema, every time he brings out a new film, it's an event and Silence might be one of his very best. The craftsmanship here is exquisite, the film is slowly paced yet always engaging and riveting. The cinematography is absolutely astonishing and the minimalist musical score really enhances the experience. Silence is an absolutely staggering film that does a perfect job of transporting you back to 17th century Japan with sublime costume and production design.
Silence is an emotionally gutting experience, seeing these people be tortured, imprisoned and even killed for their beliefs was truly quite upsetting because we know that this still occurs today with many different religions. As someone who doesn't follow any belief, I was still horrified and empathetic because these people are so strong in their belief that they're willing to die for it. Of course, there are those who chose to denounce god and surrender, there's one fascinating character named Kichijiro who does this constantly in the face of danger. Silence is incredibly powerful in it's examination of faith and the risks that come with it. Rodrigues (Garfield) is such a good example of someone who will stick to their faith no matter what. He's so certain with his beliefs that nothing will break him, even when others around him are punished for his resilience.
Silence's characters are flawed, complex and all thoroughly compelling. Of course our protagonists are wonderful characters but even the film's "villain" played by Issei Ogata is both intimidating and strangely funny. There are times in the film where Rodrigues' decisions to stay faithful seem ridiculous and at times egotistical, but that's why he's such a good character, he knows what he needs to do but he doesn't have the strength to do it. Scorsese's examination on these characters is what is so special about Silence, the way in which they are violated and punished for their beliefs is gut wrenching and heartbreaking.
My one and only issue with Silence is that it's a very long film with a 161 minute run time and the film's length is definitely felt because of the deliberate slow pace. I can't exactly choose what I would have cut but I think a more reasonable 140 minute would have been more suitable.
Silence is yet another reason why Scorsese has the reputation he has. This is a master at work. This is an excellent piece of cinema that deserves your time and attention. Silence gets a 9/10.