Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Director: Martin Scorsese
My first film of the new year was a very much more sombre affair. Scorsese's "Silence" was never going to be the most cheerful or exciting trip to the cinema but it's Scorsese, you have to sit down and watch.
It's the seventeenth century and the priest, Father Ferreira (Neeson), has been missing in Japan, having travelled there as a missionary, for some years now. The Catholic church is set to admit he has been lost to the Buddhist faith after receiving word he had apostatized his own religion. Not ready to accept this, Father's Rodrigues (Garfield) and Garpe (Driver) request that they allowed to be smuggled into Japan to spread the word and learn the true fate of their mentor. And so begins the long and treacherous tale of the search for Ferreira and the tests and trials that would beset the young priests along their journey.
It's Andrew Garfield's film in all honesty, he enjoys the bulk of the screen time and endures the greater tests put before anyone in the film that the viewer will actually see. He plays it strongly and I expect he will be in the running for a number of awards. He's sincere and convincing but had it been anyone other than Martin Scorsese directing him he might not have turned in such a high quality performance. That said, he's miles away from anything he might have done in his Spiderman movies and looking at the roles he's being offered he's moving in the right direction. Adam Driver plays the more impatient of the two priests and our friend Kylo Ren is no stranger to the darker side of life. He's a more erratic character but no less devoted to his faith than Rodrigues. The two priests separate to avoid detection and we focus on Rodrigues from there on so Driver is not given the scope to open the character up to the viewer. Liam Neeson only really appears in the early and late stages of the movie, some two hours apart. No question marks over his abilities but I'm not sure the casting department got this one quite right. As he delivers religious quotations and scriptures you'd be forgiven for wanting him to finish with "I will find you and I will kill you" at then end.
So, as already indicated, this is not the most cheerful of films. Can a film about religious persecution ever be cheerful? It's highly unlikely. It's fair to say this film is not a glowing advert for any religion although it certainly paints the Catholic faith in the brighter light whereas the Buddhists are portrayed as the all evil persecutors, torturing anyone who dared follow the Christian beliefs even if they were native to the country. The film put its itself forward almost like a Saving Private Ryan for the religious but there's no reward come closing credits. Beautifully realised, you get everything you'd expect from Martin Scorsese in directorial terms and the film has a sparse score as you might expect from a film carrying the title it does. It's not as harrowing as I thought it might be but it still remained a hard watch delivering only limited satisfaction.
3.5/5 Stars: More good fathers than goodfellas; this is for Scorsese fans and screener viewers only.