“Silence” is written and directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, and Issei Ogata. The film is about two priests who travel to Japan with hopes of spreading Catholicism while also trying to find a fellow priest who has not been heard from in years.
Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors of all-time, has been working to make this movie a reality for nearly 30 years, so that alone will get me in the door, but when you add Garfield, Driver, and Neeson to the mix, as well as one of the best trailers of 2016, this film became an absolute must-see.
There is a lot to love with “Silence”, but the most obvious takeaway is the absolutely stunning cinematography done by Rodrigo Prieto, as nearly every scene made my jaw drop from pure beauty. Prieto uses the nature and the vast landscapes to make some powerful imagery, and throughout the entire 161 minutes, there are hundreds of shots that blew me away.
Andrew Garfield gives a career-best performance here, which saying something because one could argue he did that a couple months ago in “Hacksaw Ridge”. Both performances are terrific, but I think Garfield is even better here in the lead role. Garfield is compelling throughout and is brutally powerful when he needs to be, and I loved the performance that he gave here. Adam Driver continues his hot streak with a great supporting effort, and while I wish I got a little more of him, Driver is a high point in the parts he is in. The same goes for Liam Neeson, who has some of the best scenes in the film when he’s there, I just wish I had a longer time to really get in depth with his character, but all three big names from this cast all succeed and with flying colors.
Those three were expected to be great, but I found the performance from Issei Ogata to be a truly tremendous one. Ogata is great in his role, giving a somewhat subdued, often strange, but always gripping performance here, and the back and forths he has with Garfield’s character are excellent.
It is easy to tell the passion that Martin Scorsese had while making this film, as each scene from start to finish is expertly crafted and wonderfully executed. Scorsese uses the title of this film in very clever ways, especially in pivotal scenes where all sound ceases and you are left with either breathtaking imagery or an incredibly powerful facial expression, and each time Scorsese uses this, it completely pays off.
Something Scorsese does in “Silence” that he has never done as much in his previous films: he completely breaks the audience down, both in emotions and, sometimes, in patience. This is a film that tests its viewers with graphic imagery and torturous moments that are simply difficult to sit through, but I found each of these scenes completely necessary to build two sides to a story that could have easily been one. There is an argument that can be made that there really isn’t a right side in this film, and I think a director with less capability could have botched that concept entirely.
While I appreciate just how much Scorsese tests its audience, 161 minutes can really hurt if some scenes feel less important. Early on, there were a few of these, as I wanted the film to move forward in its story to get to the powerful moments. There’s certainly an art form that I have to respect, but still, I’d be lying if I said I felt that each moment of this incredibly long film had to be left in.
There are some things about the very end of the film that felt a bit underwhelming, and without saying what those are, the final moments did not have that punch that I was expecting them to have. The camerawork during the finale is as beautiful as the rest of the film, but after watching such compelling, heartbreaking drama for a good chunk of this movie, the payoff felt a bit weak.
“Silence” is a tremendously acted, gorgeously shot, powerfully directed film that has incredible moments that really left an impact on me well after viewing. At 161 minutes, surely there will be lapses of time that feel dry, but these times are well worth it for the movie’s highs. “Silence” is the film Martin Scorsese has always wanted to make, and he really nailed it once he got the chance.
What did you think of “Silence?” Comment below with your thoughts.