** 1/2 out of 5
Rated R for some disturbing violent content
Article first published at TheReelPlace.com
I was hoping 2017 would start with a bang. We get a week full of 2016 films finally finding wide release. I was sure it would be a fantastic way to get back into the swing of things after a three week hiatus. When Monday was Ben Affleck’s Live by Night, Tuesday brought Peter Berg’s Patriots Day, and Wednesday came Martin Scorsese’s Silence, imagine my surprise when the best film of the week wound up being Live by Night. To be honest, I did decide to skip Patriots Day after looking at the three films’ runtimes, but even if it was the only film opening this week, not even Liam Neesons, Kylo Ren, and Spider-Man can keep Silence — based on Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel — from being a giant bore. Bring a couple cans of energy drinks folks, you’re gonna need it.
Opening in 1633 Japan, we find Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) amidst a group torture session. Ferreira’s narration lets us know that they are Catholic missionaries in Nagasaki, and the locals have forced him into apostasy. His last letter has found its way back to Jesuit priest Alessandro Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) in Maccau, where Ferreira’s pupils Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) insist on traveling to Japan to find Ferreira and prove that there’s no way he would have committed such an appalling act. After finding a guide in the form of Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), the two young priests sneak their way into Japan. They must keep their identity hidden, while trying to navigate the Buddhist landscape where they find more help in the secret Christian village of Tomogi. Soon enough, Rodrigues finds his way to Ferreira where his own destiny awaits.
I think whether you’ll find Silence captivating or a total snooze-fest lies on where you sit with religion in general. If you are a religious person, you’re bound to find the film captivating. While it is indeed riveting for the most part, I am absolutely not a religious person and couldn’t have cared less what happens to any of the characters. Scorsese is known for his sprawling epic masterpieces, but Silence is too polarizing to be considered a masterpiece. A lot of talk has been made about the film taking Scorsese 25 years to get made, well that’s about how long the movie will feel to most viewers.
The performances are at least top notch so if you do have an interest, you definitely will not be spared on that front. But there was absolutely no need for the film to be 161 minutes long. The same could be said about most films, but even Quentin Tarantino’s over three-hour Hateful Eight at least found ways to keep the runtime paced at full hilt. Considering how much money faith-based films have managed to make over the last few years, there is hope that Silence will find an audience. I will never find a reason to ever sit through it again. I can’t even see hardcore Scorsese fans finding themselves loving the film. I know that’s not the point, the director made the film he’s always wanted to make and at least it’s something he can finally check off his bucket list.