Released Limited December 23, 2016
Released Wide January 13, 2017
Rated R (Disturbing Violent Content)
2 hr. 41 min.
Directed, Written, and Produced by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Casino)
Also Written by Jay Cocks (Strange Days, Gangs of New York)
Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto (Argo, The Wolf of Wall Street)
Music by Kathryn Kluge (The Milky Way, Trial of Labor) and Kim Allen Kluge (Sleeping and Waking, The Milky Way)
Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, Goodfellas)
Also Produced by Vittorio Cecchi Gori (Lamerica, Nirvana), Barbara De Fina (Goodfellas, The Hi-Lo Country), Randall Emmett (End of Watch, Everest), David Lee (Taking Woodstock, Life of Pi), Gastón Pavlovich (El Estudiante, Little Baby Jesus), Emma Tillinger Koskoff (The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street), and Irwin Winkler (Rocky, Survivor)
Starring Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Hacksaw Ridge), Adam Driver (Paterson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Taken), Tadanobu Asano (Battleship, Thor: Ragnarok), Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones, Justice League), Issei Ogata (Yi Yi, The Sun), Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Over the Fence, Shin Godzilla), Yoshi Oida (Autumn Blossoms, Wasabi), and Yôsuke Kubozuka (Go, Samurai Resurrection)
In Japan’s Edo period, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan had become incredibly hostile to Christianity. At one time, Christian missionaries had been able to travel freely to Japan and spread the Gospel. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese people had even converted to Christianity. Yet after the Shimabara Rebellion in the 17th century against the Tokugawa shogunate, Japanese leadership decided Christianity was harmful to Japanese society, and they began to do everything they could to snuff its existence out of the country.
In this setting, two Jesuit priests from Portugal (Garfield and Driver) learn that their previous mentor (Neeson) has gone missing or even apostate. They believe God has given them the mission to go to Japan and find their mentor and help him spread the Gospel amidst the persecution in Japan. When the two priests get to Japan, they find the environment, and their mentor, much different than they had expected. They realize that choices they must make there are more difficult and complex than anything they’d ever dreamt of, and they realize how hard it is to know what to do, to keep the faith, when God seems silent.
Based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name, Silence is one of the most beautiful, most haunting, most thought-provoking movies I have seen in quite a while. This is partly because, as a Christian, its themes and questions resonate deeply with me. Silence ponders belief, faith, religion, ministry, and love, and, in some ways, it demonstrates how those are separate though intertwined concepts. Silence ponders persistence and endurance and the manner in which belief and truth survive in the midst of extreme persecution. It ponders the way in which true faith can survive doubts, questioning, maturation, and the end of innocence. And it asks exactly which things are valuable and meaningful in our lives.
Silence is an amazing film on every level. The screenwriting is sprawling but tight. The people involved have skillfully recreated Silence‘s time period and locations. The sets are excellent and the location scenery (the movie was filmed in Taiwan) is amazing. Scorsese and his director of photography move the camera in examining, fascinating, steady movements. The acting all around, but especially from Garfield, is excellent. And Schoonmaker – who also edited Goodfellas, which has been (and I agree) referred to as one of the best edited films of all time – edited everything very well, very effectively. Even the voice over, which I don’t usually like, adds insight to this story.
I don’t agree completely, necessarily, with the answers that Silence kind of offers to its questions, but this is a challenging movie that inspires the kinds of thoughts that make us as Christians uncomfortable too often, thoughts worth dwelling on. And the whole thing is helmed excellently and respectfully by Scorsese, who is himself Catholic and has been wanting to make this movie for many years now. Silence was a passion project for Scorsese, and he had been developing it for twenty-five years. In my opinion, it’s one of the top five films Scorsese has ever made.
I recommend Silence to anyone who loves good movies but especially to Christians, and I present this as the kind of challenging filmmaking that Christians ought to be doing. I warn you, however, that Silence is a mature, patient, pondering movie that takes its time and doesn’t shy away from ugliness.
I’m going to give Silence a 98%.
It’s a powerful film, and great, and I’m glad I finally got to watch and review it.