Every once in a while, you see a trailer that is impeccable. Silence had that, a jaw-dropping trailer full of vivid imagery and chilling moments. I wasn’t sure if the sprawling 3 hour drama could have that same effect. So did it?
This is surprisingly a remake of a 1971 film, based on a novel by Shusako Endo. It tells the story of two Portuguese priests who journey to Japan in the 17th century (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver). They are looking for their mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has supposedly renounced God publicly and they must find out why and hopefully save him. Japan during this time was incredibly dangerous, as Christians are killed and tortured. So our story follows the two priests as they travel throughout Japan and risk their lives to find their mentor. They are guided by an alcoholic ex-Christian named Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) and hunted down by a dangerous inquisitor (Issei Ogata).
This movie is a bit of a conundrum for me.
Technically, this movie is brilliant. Director Martin Scorsese is no amateur here and this movie is shot beautifully. The imagery is vibrant, just as the trailers showed you. He also manages to get some astounding performances from everyone in the cast. Even minor characters that I don’t remember their names had incredible moments. While Liam Neeson only has a few scenes, they’re memorable and some of his best work in recent years.
The movie also is accessible to a wide range of spiritual beliefs, I don’t think you need to have any sort of history with religion to understand what’s going on here. Andrew Garfield is really our lead character and he manages to make you understand their plight and why they’re doing what they’re doing. His struggle with faith and this journey that he’s on is incredibly captivating and he’s proving that he has immense talent (with Hacksaw Ridge earlier in 2016, he’s having a great year).
I also want to give kudos to the sound and music of Silence, as long scenes are often punctuated by pounding drums and Japanese instruments. The score is great.
What doesn’t work?
The problem here is that this movie is nearly three hours long. Maybe I have a short attention span but I found myself constantly trimming the film as it happened. “That could have been cut” and “that could have been shortened” was constantly running through my head. When you get to Scorsese’s level, I don’t think anyone is telling you how to put a film together so I don’t think anyone pressed upon him the need for tighter pacing.
Some of this movie crawls. Sometimes this movie comes to a complete halt. For the amount of content, the actual things that need to be shown, this movie should have been trimmed by 30 minutes at least. Remember how I said the trailer was exceptional? It is and those images are great but the movie they’re in is incredibly slow, aside for a few moments of urgency.
It’s (pun intended) the silence that reminds you how slow this movie is. When you clear your throat and you realize how long this movie has been absolutely silent, you realize that most of this movie consists of just waiting. Our characters are waiting to go somewhere, they’re waiting for something to happen. The actual sense of urgency in this life or die story is fairly minimal.
This movie is still great, shot beautifully and full of great performances, but there was no restraint shown here and that means it’ll turn quite a few people off. This movie is for the patient, those that are absolutely fans of Scorsese or film in general. The average movie-goer likely won’t find the three hours worth it, which is why I’m in a hard place here.
Silence is created perfectly, with beautiful cinematography and excellent performances, mostly from Garfield as our lead. There was very little restraint shown though and its 3 hour runtime slows the movie down to a snail’s crawl, meaning that only the most patient of you will really have the endurance that this movie requires. If you have the will to endure it, you’ll find a lot to love here though.