Release Date: December 23, 2016 (limited); January 13, 2017 (wide release)
MPAA Rating: R (for some disturbing violent content)
Director Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” has an epic feel, one of great cinematic scope and sense of purpose, reflective of his near 30 year journey to bring Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name to the big screen.
As is the case with many Scorsese films, “Silence” involves topics exploring faith, spirituality, loyalty, and betrayal; of good versus evil; of humanity and acts of inhumanity. And while there are beautiful images in much of the film, which is largely set in Japan (although the movie was shot in Taiwan), there are also brutal images including those of beheading that will likely remain with the filmgoer for some time.
At the center of the story are two 17th century Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who journey to Japan in search of their long-lost mentor (Liam Neeson). Their eventual presence in a village ministering to Japanese Christians must be done on the down-low (thus “silence”) or they will face the wrath of the Inquisitor (Issei Ogata), who is pro-Buddha and anti-Christ.
Much soul searching occurs by the lead characters in “Silence” as the Jesuit priests must confront their allegiance to God even if it means the death of others. Ultimately, the film is a fascinating character study that may catalyze self-reflection within the filmgoer. Much credit should be given to Garfield who delivers a strong performance.
At just shy of three-hours running time, sitting through “Silence” in silence may be challenging. Although I think the film would have gained something by having been trimmed by 20 minutes or so, I did not find myself checking my watch as the storytelling, albeit somewhat labored, was interesting.
In its initial theatrical release, “Silence” essentially resulted in silence at the box office. While the film is unlikely to find a wide audience, those who do experience it will likely find it to be thought-provoking.