Testing the faith. In 17th Century Japan, two Portuguese priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) set out to try and locate their missing mentor (Liam Neeson). There are rumors that he has apostatized and is now living the Japanese way of life, but they refuse to believe it. There are allies in Japan who want to believe in Catholicism, but there is an inquisitor that wants to snuff this religion out all together, and will torture and kill to get his way, so they must be careful. I would have probably passed on this if it wasn’t for one reason and one reason alone: this is from Martin Scorsese, so you have to take it seriously. Whenever he gets behind the camera, it could very well be the best made movie of the year. This has been a passion project for him for quite some time now, and he has spent over 26 years trying to get this movie off the ground. If this is something that you would be interested in without knowing who directed it, I think you should check this out. For me, this is overlong to the point where I got restless in the theater, and I’m sure I would have taken multiple breaks if I watched this at home.
And it wasn’t just because I saw it in the crappiest theater in town.
Now I don’t want to make this seem like it is all bad, because it is certainly not that. The cinematography is gorgeous, so much so that it was even evident in my theater where everything was slightly out of focus the entire time. The performances given by Garfield, Driver and Neeson are all top notch; it’s really Garfield’s movie as Driver drifts in and out of the story, and Neeson really only shows up for the finale. In addition to that, all of the Japanese actors are professional as well, especially Issey Ogata as the inquisitor. I also really liked the moral questions raised as well. When you really break it down, nobody asked these priests to come and interrupt the Japanese way of life. You’re supposed to root for the priests because they’re the protagonists, but I found myself siding with the inquisitor more than a few times during this, and I disconnected with the priests because they clearly have Jesus complexes. It’s presumptuous to assume that this religious equivalent of global manifest destiny is the will of God, and I appreciated the fact that both sides of this religious argument were presented, as they really only made things worse off for the native people. But the item that I just keep coming back to is the fact that this is almost three hours long, and I honestly believe that it could be tightened up and it would be a stronger film for it.
And I don’t think that there’s anything you can say to make me feel otherwise.
Speaking candidly, this is not one of Scorsese’s stronger films, and I have enjoyed all of his movies released in the last decade more than this one here. Not to say that it is what I would consider to be a bad movie, I just got overly fidgety. I think the ending to this is very strong, as that is where the biggest counterpoints to the religious arguments are made, and I will take a movie that starts off on the wrong foot and finishes strong over vice versa any day of the week. I wouldn’t stand in your way if you have the desire to watch this, but if you’re going to check this out strictly due to the Scorsese name like I did, I wouldn’t set your expectations to the highest setting.
Silence (2016) ***
– Critic for Hire