Film Review by Kam Williams
Portuguese Priests Venture to Japan to Search for Missionary Mentor in Faith-Based, Docudrama
Portuguese traders first landed in Japan in 1543, followed soon thereafter by Francis Xavier and other Jesuits. So many locals started converting to Christianity that, less than a decade later, the emperor issued an edict banning Catholicism and ordering the expulsion of all missionaries.
Violators were forced to either renounce the religion or face crucifixion, which resulted in many of the faithful's going underground to avoid persecution. Consequently, when a cleric disappeared, it was often difficult to discern whether the missing person had been martyred or was merely in hiding.
This was the case with Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who had been spreading the gospel around Japan for close to a quarter-century before he suddenly vanished without a trace after sending an ominous last letter to a friend. The ensuing silence prompted a couple of his proteges, Fathers Garrpe (Adam Driver) and Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) to mount a desperate search for their mentor, despite the fact that discovery of their identities might mean instant death.
In 1633, the perilous trek began, and that ill-advised expedition is the subject of Silence, a faith-based docudrama directed and co-written by Martin Scorcese. The movie represents a bit of a departure for the legendary Oscar-winner whose name is most closely associated with gory gangster flicks like Goodfellas, The Departed and Mean Streets.
Based on Shusaku Endo's 1996 novel of the same name, the film was a labor of love which took Scorcese almost three decades to bring to the big screen. The legendary filmmaker ostensibly identifies with the picture's protagonists questioning whether God even exists.
Clocking in at a patience-testing 160+ minutes, the deliberately-paced production could easily have shaved another half-hour off the final cut and still delivered the same emotional impact. Blessed with a trio of inspired lead performances, Silence is nevertheless apt to find an enthusiastic audience among Born Again Bible thumpers.
A thought-provoking, historical drama chronicling the ultimate test of faith.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for disturbing violence
In English and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 161 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
To see a trailer for Silence, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqrgxZLd_gE