Distributor: Paramount Picures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ortega
Being the last film of 2016, Silence had me speechless before the movie even came to a close. The overall story had my mind pondering for the next few days as I gathered my thoughts to make up what I considered the film in the end. This hit me in a number of ways in regards to my faith, my philosophy, and overall view of life as a simple human being. I will say this, if you plan to see the tilm now or when it is released nationwide in mid-January, watch at your own risk. I was unprepared of what to expect on the level of when I first watched Passion of the Christ (2004).
Violent/Scary Images: This film contains multiple graphic scenes of water torture, explicit beheadings, and disturbing images of crucifixions throughout the entire film. While the film captures the reality of the Japan missionaries and empire, it will come off as very strong and hard to watch for audiences and it is not suitable for Christian families despite the Christian parallels and messages.
Language/Crude Humor: A denouncing of God plays a significant part throughout. W*** is used only twice in one shot at the beginning/middle section of the film.
Spiritual Content: Faith during times of persecution play a large part between all main characters along with doubt and finding God is the silence of the day.
Sexual Content: None.
Drugs/Alcohol References: None.
Other Negative Content: Anxiety for audiences may build at certain scenes due to how graphic and horrifying they are. I had to walk out of the theater at one point to take a deep breath after what I had just watched.
Positive Content: Strong portrayals of conviction and faith of both the missionaries and the people of Japan.
For nearly three decades, the novel Silence played a heavy role in the life of Director and Writer Martin Scorsese since his first read on the train to Tokyo. Upon his return, he secured the rights to adapt the novel into a film. During his research and screenplay writing, he wrote and directed highly praised films, including but not limited to, Goodfellas (1990) The Aviator (2004), Hugo (2011), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
With the persecution of Christian missionaries that has been taking place over the past five years alone in the Middle East, Scorsese’s masterpiece could not have come at a better time as he captures the brutal and dark reality of the Jesuit persecution in Japan during the 14th and 15th Century. In this 2 hour and 41 minute journey, one soon comes to the realization that the film contains little to no music score and will also come to realize that it does not require one. Throughout the scenes of persecution and torture, the anxiety in the mind and heart builds up in audiences in ways a film score could only do so much. To have a great story, one must have great shots to give a real feeling in the characters locations and time period. Each shines bright in the use of natural lighting, exotic locations, and near to perfect resemblance of 14th century Japan.
Outshining everyone is Andrew Garfield as Father Rodrigues. This past November, his performance in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (2016) portrayed the dedication of a man whose convictions of non-violence could not be swayed, no matter how he appeared to his colleagues and fellow soldiers. In his unforgettable performance in Silence, his character’s faith faces a more life threatening challenge holding tightly to his convictions and spiritual beliefs in a country where one can be killed for it. Over the course of decades, he faces countless torture methods not just physically, but also psychologically as he witnesses the torture and death of those he brought to Christ.
As he begins praying and asking, so do audiences as they ponder the hard hitting question, “Is this all worth it?” “Is this what it takes to believe in a God that remains ‘silent?'” Giving a memorable performance of his own is Liam Neeson as Father Ferreira, a Padre known to have given up the faith after over thirty years of service to spreading the Gospel throughout Japan. Being the opposite of Andrew Garfield’s character, Liam Neeson offers his reasons for denouncing the faith and questions Garfield with such conviction and belief. It is almost unbearable and heartbreaking to watch Rodrigues and Garrpe come to the horrifying truth.
What Scorsese’s film of missionaries achieves is grasping the reality of not just these historical missionaries in particular, but what countless missionaries have gone through in history and what they continue to go through to this day. The testing of faith and conviction has never been portrayed as beautiful and raw, compared to what is usually seen in Christian-based films. This is not to bash the entire Christian film industry as whole, however, what they fail to grasp is the deep struggle of doubt and fear when one constantly faces death at every corner let alone what it looks like to fall into the abyss and give up on a faith that was once held strongly and tightly in the heart of a man.
Of all that Martin Scorsese has delivered in his film career, never before has he delivered a story with such conviction and dedication since its early developments in 1989. With a solid cast, strong cinematography and locations, and with a dedicated writer and director, Silence certainly stands out as one of if not the best films 2016 has to offer and will hopefully continue to be recognized as the Academy Awards approach.
+ Powerful writing and directing by Scorsese + Depicts the cruel reality of missionaries + The bravery and faith of those tortured for Christ + Challenges audiences to think about theology
The Bottom Line
Based on the best-selling novel by Shusako Endo, Silence focuses on the life risking missionary journey of Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garefield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) to bring the Gospel underground in Japan. Upon their daring mission is to find the whereabouts of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who has been rumored to have surrendered the faith of Christ under the Japanese officials. As their mission endures, so does their faith as they constantly tested to the breaking points in their spirituality and conviction.