MovieBob Reviews SILENCE 2016

first_imgStay on target If nothing else, you’ve got to hand it to Martin Scorsese on this one just for having the fortitude, commitment to vision and sheer conviction to forge ahead and make a movie that (at least on paper) basically nobody is going to want to watch.For context: Silence is a historical drama about Catholic missionaries working to spread Christianity into the Far East that doesn’t outright (explicitly) condemn the idea of Western religious colonialism. This means a sizable portion of modern audiences are going to be fairly unsympathetic to the material right up front – and while there certainly is still an audience that might be inclined to “root” for that sort of thing on principle… it’s also a much more ambiguous and “thoughtful” film than tends to break big in that demographic (read: Neither Kirk Cameron nor Kevin Sorbo are anywhere to be found in the credits.)Oh, and while we’re at it it’s also a movie about enduring and surviving horrible torture (which also has an eager audience, but this is Scorsese in subdued/”holding-back” mode). It’s a long one – a few minutes shorter than, say, The Wolf of Wall Street but without all the guilty-pleasure bacchanalia that made you not notice that The Wolf of Wall Street was 3 hours long. In a modern Hollywood so timid about “sure things” that they’ll hesitate to make some movies that people DO ask them to make, pushing forward on a project that’s almost guaranteed not to connect entirely because it’s a passion project you just have to get out of your system? Gotta respect that – I just wish the movie was better.Don’t get me wrong: it’s far from a “dud” – this is Martin Scorsese we’re talking about, and Martin Scorsese simply doesn’t make “duds.” But it also really failed to grab me in a way where I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed in the movie or myself. Grappling as one must with the modern film critic’s eternal self-doubt as to whether or not one is committing the plebian sin of dismissing a Scorsese film because it doesn’t fall into the crime/mafia/machismo mold he’s most famous for. It’s not quite the same heresy the protagonists of the film wrestles with, but an inner turmoil all the same.In any case: This the second adaptation of Japanese author Shūsaku Endō’s historical fiction novel about the persecution of Tokugawa-era Japan’s minority Christian population while the faith was outlawed by the government following the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637. The basic setup is that the government is arresting and torturing believers to pressure the foreign Missionaries ministering to them to commit symbolic acts of apostasy – specifically placing their foot on an image of Christ and renouncing their faith. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver (no, really) are a pair of Portuguese Catholic Priests who travel to Japan looking for their mentor (Liam Neeson) after learning that he has gone missing and been accused of not only renouncing Christ but going over to the side of the Japanese government itself. While there, they also discover secret clans of Japan’s “Hidden Christians” who seek their help as well, but… suffice it to say; things don’t really go well for anybody involved.So it’s basically another Heart of Darkness riff on which to hang an extended-length meditation on the nature of faith and whether or not faith in and of itself is worth the suffering it often asks of a true believer, punctuated by oddly-subdued scenes of torture and violence. And there’s a lot to recommend. It’s beautiful to look atsoft pass’s fascinating to see Scorsese hold back from the high-energy kinetic camerawork he’s often associated with. The fact that there’s almost zero music for the duration is a bold choice (“Silence” – get it?), and the ideas that make up its thematic core all get ample (perhaps too ample, to be honest) room to breathe and make their case.Unfortunately, the way it comes together makes it all feel just a little bit cold and detached despite the supposed gravity of everything going down. Yes, fine, that’s part of the point; but at a certain level, the audience has to be drawn into a connection with the main character’s internal plight so that we can understand (or at least empathize with) the moral and psychological conflict they’re enduring. And while it all fits together on paper that we should be doing so… Silence just never quite managed to draw me into the narrative no matter how much I admired the craftsmanship – and sadly, I have to put a lot of that onto Andrew Garfield.Look, this kid is clearly a dedicated actor, he’ll probably be really compelling someday and I know we’re all eager to cut him a break because he’s trying really hard to wash off those godawful Spider-Man reboots off his resume… but he’s just not up to this kind of material. Driver is actually better than you’d expect, but Garfield is saddled with not only more screentime but the narration, the inner monologue and most of the second half before Neeson can show up and make everyone else look like they’re doing regional dinner theater. This was gonna be a tough role for anybody since you’re doing all the heavy-lifting yourself without much deliberate flourish or “showy” moments to disperse the workload, absolutely – but regardless, Garfield just doesn’t yet have the chops for this, and it makes the film a chore.And while Scorsese is doing probably the best job that any Western filmmaker could possibly do in being fair (and also fairly cynical) about the basic premise; it’s none the less hard not to feel like we’re hearing the wrong or at least less-compelling side of the story. It’s true that this was probably the worst moment in time conceivable regarding “the discourse” to release a film that asks an audience to feel anything other than abject contempt for white European men striding into someone else’s country. Men looking to drive religious conversions, there surely must be a way to be faithful to Endo’s narrative without the film occasionally feeling within sight of giving a soft-pass to Jesuit colonialism.Sometimes even the best of artists get lost inside of long-gestating passion projections. And Scorsese is no exception – see also: Gangs of New York (or, rather, don’t). Silence is nobly intended and not a failure of execution (certainly not of ambition, either) but it just doesn’t come together in the end. MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ last_img

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