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With: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds, Issey Ogata, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Yoshi Oida, Yosuke Kubozuka
Written by: Martin Scorsese, Jay Cocks, based on a novel by Shusaku Endo
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violent content
Language: English, Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 161
Date: 12/25/2016

Silence (2016)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Priest on Earth

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This religious epic, a dream project of director Martin Scorsese that has gestated for decades, has emerged somewhat difficult and unwieldy, a bit gory, but also magnificent, beautiful, and masterful. Scorsese read the novel by Shusaku Endo while in Japan in 1989 and has tried for years to visualize it for the screen; it's impossible to guess if the results ever could have been any better than they are now. Silence is a mix of Hollywood grandeur and genuine existential, soul-searching, much like the films Scorsese grew up watching.

In Silence, in the 17th century, two Jesuit priests — Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) — hear a letter from their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has disappeared in Japan. He describes many tortures under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, which has outlawed Catholicism. The pair decide to travel there in hopes of finding Father Ferreira, and find the land as miserable as described. At first, they are hidden by a village of Christians who are hungry for religious leadership, but then Rodrigues journeys further inland. He slowly realizes that the idea of faith is not so simple, that belief can take many forms. He also begins to wonder why, in the face of so much wretchedness, are his prayers not answered? Why is God silent?

For some, Garfield may not be enough of a heavyweight for his role, but his eyes reveal a genuine pain as he struggles with his personal crisis. The wonderful Japanese actor Issey Ogata (Yi Yi, The Sun), playing an inquisitor, gives a breakout performance, adding weight and humanity to the "other" side of the argument. (Silence never settles for any easy answers.) Liam Neeson and Adam Driver are likewise excellent, lending their bodies and souls to the movie's powerful cinematic depiction of landscapes every bit as treacherous and shifting as belief itself.

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