Despite its huge scale, Martin Scorsese’s religious epic Silence is a deeply personal film and long-time passion project, based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name.
Two Portuguese priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), embark on a journey to 17th-century Japan, where Christians are forced to renounce their faith or be subjected to torture or death. All to find their former mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who the young priests refuse to believe has shunned Christianity.
Aside from the slightly distracting accents, Garfield and Driver turn in solid performances. Despite joining the colossal franchise that is Star Wars, Driver has repeatedly turned up in a variety of different films, such as last year’s Midnight Special and Paterson. It was refreshing to see Garfield obtain a role which exhibits his talent (with the upcoming Hacksaw Ridge set to be another platform), stepping out of the shadow cast by the mediocre Spider-Man reboot.
With scenes of torture and despair, Silence is taxing to watch in places. However, the charismatic and oddly comedic inquisitor Inoue (Issey Ogata) adds a much-needed respite from the unfolding atrocities. Earthy Japanese vistas captured by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto also offer a distraction, as it’s easy to become lost within the grand landscapes.
Similar to Scorsese’s last few features, Silence suffers from being overly long and as a result becomes repetitive. Singular drawn-out scenes convey the priests’ plight more effectively than an overall prolonged film that inevitably drags. Despite its flaws, it’s difficult not to admire Silence and the many years of work that built to it.