POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Scorsese follows up his 2013 The Wolf Of Wall Street with a passion project called Silence, that he has been developing for decades. It is amazing to think that a director such as Scorsese has to wait so long to make his passion project, but I digress. With the plot summary from IMDB Silence is about “Two priests who travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.” The film stars Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, Hacksaw Ridge), Adam Driver (Star Wars Episode XII, Girls), Issey Ogata (The Sun, YiYi) , Tadanobu Asano (47 Ronin, Thor) and Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls, Taken). I have to say the cast really excels in this film. I was particularly impressed with Andrew Garfield who really shines in the film, and I can even forgive his accent at times. You’d think after the failure (well debatable) of The Amazing Spiderman 2, Garfield would slip into actor jail. However with Silence, Hacksaw Ridge and 99 Homes he has come into his own element and has grown as an actor. I am interested to see what is next instore for Mr Garfield.
Furthermore another standout performance was of Kichijiro played by Yosuke Kubozuka. He is very much the Judas/Peter of the film. He constantly denounces his faith to save his own skin. He is the opposite of Driver’s and Garfield’s characters who are brave and fearless and believe in what they are doing. With him he is too scared to accept the faith and selfishly turn his back on it when hard times come.
For me the film is broken into two parts. The first involves Garfield’s and Driver’s character as they enter Japan and spread the word of the Lord. What is so well crafted in the first half is the tension created. Because at any time the two priests could be caught and be killed for what they are doing. The use of little to no music really heightens the tension and suspense to a point where the silence is deafening.
The second part slows down the film but in a virtuous way. It creates a slow burn and slowly shows what fate is waiting for Garfield’s character. Here is where he excels and gets to chew the scenery a bit more. Along with the Japanese actors they really do carry the story with great performances. Some may not agree with the slow burn as I found out with one audience member next to me dosing off. I think with the slow burn and the torture it gives a meaning to the title. As the priest suffers there is only silence from God.
As much as I enjoyed Silence, I think where it disappoints is its failure to explain why the Japanese should chose Catholicism over Buddhism or the way of the Samurai. For me this would be an interesting sub plot to explore in the film as it would create more conflict within the Japanese captors and it would raise a moral question. Is what they are doing right? Is it part of the honour code to treat people like this? I also didn’t like the ending. I think what would wrap the film up nicely is Garfield denouncing his fate and then cutting to black. Instead they show his new life as Okada San’emon till his death with a voice over from a Dutch trader called Dieter Albrecht . I think that steers the film in the wrong direction.
Overall I’d rate this film as a Must See In The Cinema, however it is not for everyone and be prepared for a heavy and slow burn of a film. The torture scenes near the end will make people feel uncomfortable.