Movie Review: ‘SILENCE’ – Scorsese’s religious epic enlightens, tests faith


Connor Bynum // Film Critic

Rated R, 161 minutes.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam NeesonTadanobu AsanoCiarán HindsIssey OgataYôsuke Kubozuka and Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Martin Scorsese’s filmography has always featured glimpses into his Catholic upbringing, but his latest film SILENCE brings it front and center. As a passion project of his nearly 30 years in the making, SILENCE joins the ever-growing roster of faith based films in Hollywood, yet stands far above the crowd as one of the best films of the year and of Scorsese’s career.

Based in 17th century Japan, two Jesuit Priests, Father Sebastien Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver), set out from Portugal to find their former mentor, Father Christovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is said to have abandoned his faith after heavy persecution from the Japanese government.

When Rodrigues and Garrpe finally come into contact with Japanese believers, they are met with a faith staggeringly stronger than their own. Rodrigues often notes that the sheer passion these people have for their Lord stirs doubts in his heart about his own commitment to the faith. He struggles with the idea of not being worthy to preach a gospel to which these villagers so strongly devote their lives.

SILENCE does not hold back in its exploration of embracing the idea of faith rather than the faith itself. Some of them believe because the concept of Heaven is a means of an escape from a world of hardship. Others seem more interested in the Priests themselves rather than the Gospel they preach.

Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) faces the ultimate test of faith in SILENCE. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Among the villagers is a drunken guide named Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), a deeply flawed character that gracefully balances the line between comic relief and pitiful tragedy. A shamed man, Kichijiiro constantly renounces his faith when faced with persecution, yet never fails to (sometimes literally) come crawling back to beg forgiveness from Rogdrigues. He laments being born into a time when Christians are persecuted for their faith and that he could have lived and died as a “good Christian” had he existed in a different time and place.

The film also features a stand-out performance from Issey Ogata as the man responsible for the persecution of Japanese believers, Inquisitor Inoue. Inoue possesses a relentless intolerance for Christianity amongst the Japanese people, and Ogata absolutely owns the screen in his portrayal.

While the story of SILENCE is simple, the film presents questions that are anything but. How much is too much to bear in the name of faith? If Christ already suffered for us, does He require us to suffer as He did? Does He not hear us when we suffer? Is He even there? The film respects its audience by never telling it what to believe. Rather, it makes a case for what faith can require from the faithful.

SILENCE is not the kind of film that is meant to be watched lightly. It expertly addresses the often uncomfortable idea of having one’s personal convictions tested to their breaking point, while avoiding the pitfalls of preaching to the viewer. This film is no doubt a testament to Scorsese’s utter devotion to his craft and it demands to be seen.

SILENCE expands its release on Friday.
Dallas: Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.