dir Martin Scorsese
scr Jay Cocks, Martin Scorsese
prd Barbara De Fina, Irwin Winkler, Martin Scorsese, Randall Emmett, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, Gaston Pavlovich, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
with Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Issei Ogata, Yosuke Kubozuka, Ciaran Hinds, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Yasushi Takada, Yoshi Oida, Michie, Ryo Kase
release US 23.Dec.16, UK 1.Jan.17
16/US 2h39
On a mission from God: Garfield and Driver

neeson asano hinds
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Silence Martin Scorsese takes another deep exploration of faith in this drama set in 17th century Japan. Aided by a forceful cast and a first-rate crew, Scorsese's direction digs into the ideas swirling around the central character's heart and mind. In the end, the film is perhaps a bit too heady for its own good, but there are some quietly subtle angles to the main message.

In 1640, Jesuit priests Rodrigues and Garrpe (Garfield and Driver) set off from Portugal to find their mentor Ferreira (Neeson), who has gone rogue as a missionary in Japan, where Christianity has been declared illegal and is ruthlessly persecuted. In Macao, they find Japanese exile Kichijiro (Kubozuka) to help sneak them into a rural village near Nagasaki, where they find devout Catholics hiding from inquisitor Inoue (Ogata), who brutally tortures and kills Christians who refuse to recant. Eventually, Inoue captures Rodrigues, working with an interpreter (Asano) to show him the error of his ways.

At the centre is a clash between Eastern and Western cultures, and religious beliefs that once crossed that gap but are now declared alien and harmful. Many scenes feature characters debating whether Christianity ever properly took root in Japan, since the people had to reinterpret it through local filters. And there's something more profound swirling around in the depths of this movie, grappling with universal concepts of faith and questions about why God remains silent in the face of suffering.

Garfield and Driver deliver emotive performances as men who put themselves in danger to do the right thing, then are horrified at what happens. As the narrative follows Rodrigues, Garfield plays a series of wrenching sequences with thoughtful honesty and passion. The character is complex and intriguing, a true believer forced to reframe his most deeply held beliefs. Neeson has impact in his scenes as well, although there can hardly help but be a whiff of Qui-Gon about Ferreira.

Scorsese directs with striking visual skill, with expert work from cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, production designer Dante Ferretti and editor Thelma Scoonmaker. The spiritual themes sometimes feel oppressive, provoking the audience as Christianity and Buddhism square off. This gives the film an academic tone that kind of undermines the more personal aspects of the story. But there's something much more intriguing going on under the surface, quietly exploring the mystery of a true faith that transcends religion entirely.

cert 15 themes, violence 12.Dec.16

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Silence Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall