Dubbed as his passion project, Scorsese explores many deep, philosophical questions in Silence. Is there a God? If so, why does he permit so much suffering? Is it mere arrogance and selfishness to hold onto one’s faith at the expense of other people’s lives? There is much to meditate and reflect upon in this film. At times, Silence is very hard to watch. While not particularly bloody, unlike some of Scorsese’s other movies, the brutal acts depicted feel very real.
Aside from the controversial subject matter, Silence is an excellent character study on Father Rodriguez and Garupe. We get to see how they change and ultimately follow two different paths. Andrew Garfield turns in his best work as Father Rodriguez. Adam Driver is equally brilliant. Liam Neeson has minimal screen time, but delivers one of his finest performances. He can convey so much emotion without speaking. There is more to his acting capability than Bryan Mills from Taken. Isse Ogata is evil and manipulative as the Japanese Inquisitor. He can be charming one moment and vile the next, a sort of Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality. The rest of the supporting cast are also great in their respective roles.
The use of sound or rather lack thereof is particularly unique. There are moments where it is completely silent. The visuals take priority, allowing the audience a chance to absorb the character’s emotions. This technique works very well. The fact Silence does not have a music soundtrack makes it even powerful. So many films rely on music to convey an emotional response in the viewer. The visuals, performances, and story do this for the movie.
The only criticism I have is the pace. The first two hours move steadily but the ending drags a bit. It is almost as if the screenwriters wanted to add more to the story than it needed. In my opinion, a shorter ending would have given the film a much stronger resolution.
With such a huge filmmaking career that Scorsese has developed over the years, it is hard for me to rank this as one of his best. He has made so many excellent movies. Silence is a great one. That’s for sure – one of 2016’s best.