When considering who is among Hollywood’s best directors, Martin Scorsese is a name deserving of that praise. Crafting masterpieces for over forty years now, his work on films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas will always rank him as a legend.
With all these great films, its surprising to think that his true passion project is just finally coming out. That film is Silence, which Scorsese has been developing since 1990. The film follows two priests who attempt a mission to rescue their mentor for Japan, which has outlawed Christianity.
Silence has underperformed at the box office and received only one nomination from the Oscars. This is a travesty, as the latest masterwork from Scorsese is one of 2016’s best films.
From a visual standpoint, I would go as far to say this is the most impressive looking film of last year. Scorsese was adamant about filming on location, shooting in Taiwan for over five months. Teamed with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (the lone nominated man from the film), the two capture the natural beauty of each landscape. Every shot packs a punch with equal parts precision and artistry.
Performance-wise, there are quite a few notable standouts. Andrew Garfield gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Rodrigues, a Jesuit who is at constant battle with his own faith throughout his mission. Garfield not only has a seamless accent, but inflicts the pain and burden the character has throughout the film.
Adam Driver and Liam Neeson may get second-billing in the cast, but its the performance of many great Japanese actors that give this material its potency. Issei Ogata, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, and Tadanobu Asano are some of the stand outs among this impressive cast. Drive and Neeson are also quite good in the limited screen time they have.
Many may find Silence’s 162 minute running time daunting on paper, but the movie proves to be an incredibly engrossing experience. There is never a false moment in the film, with the narrative having a seamless flow throughout. Despite its running time, the film never feels bloated, with a great level of focus by Scorsese and co-writer Jay Cocks.
As always, Scorsese does a masterfully job in his direction. The film has a quiet brutality to it, with the violence here evoking just how blunt death can be. A lot of these moments are deeply affecting and got under my skin as a viewer.
Silence’s best aspect is that its a film that asks many tough questions without easy answers. Scorsese has been open about his belief in Christianity, but he explores religion in a very complex way. Whether its the padres egoism in their mission or the search of a purposeful life by the Japanese Christians, there is a lot of subtext that makes this experience even more rewarding.
After the epic wait, Silence proves to be worth all the trails and tribulations that Scorsese had to endure. It not only ranks as one of 2016’s finest films, but yet another masterful achievement by Scorsese.