Martin Scorsese is one of the best. The dude has been directing movies for nearly 50 years and has averaged one epic all-timer of a movie every decade (Taxi Driver – 1976, Raging Bull – 1980, Goodfellas – 1990, The Departed – 2006). He has already created 3 cinematic marvels in the 2010’s (Shutter Island – 2010, The Wolf of Wall Street – 2013, Silence – 2016) and has at least two movies in the works as we speak. Unfortunately Scorsese is on the wrong side of 70 and has the time for just a handful of movies before old age takes him. Until that awful day when Scorsese retires or dies, I plan on watching every one of his releases in theaters. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated with his newest project Silence.
You would think a Scorsese directed movie with a $40 – $50 million budget would have the widest release possible. My local theater is clogged with showings of XXX, The Bye Bye Man, and Patriots Day. I only found one theater a town over from mine that has one showing of Silence a day in the small theater at 9:05 pm. Even more disheartening, including myself and my two friends, only 7 people were in the theater and one was talking to someone quietly on facetime for an impossibly long time. All signs are pointing towards this movie being a box office bomb due to the little promotion and heavy subject matter.
If I weren’t such an avid fan of Scorsese I probably wouldn’t have searched out a showing either. A near 3 hour story chronicling 2 Jesuit priests secretly searching 17th century Japan for their mentor who disappeared years earlier while spreading the teachings of Catholicism is not the most intriguing movie pitch. The movies is as dense as it sounds featuring brutal scenes of torture and the cultural divide between Japan and Western Europe. This epic historical drama is based on the events in the book titled Silence published in 1966 written by Shuskau Endo.
Staring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson, the acting is superb. Garfield saw the most screen time and I was a little surprised to see how well he treated the role as it will take me a long time to not associate his name with shitty Spider-Man movies. My favorite role in the movie is played by another Marvel victim (he was in the Thor movies), Tadanobu Asano. He played the Japanese translator who spent a lot of time with Garfield’s character and delivered the most poignant lines of the movie.
The cinematic shots and sound design are impeccable. As its same suggests, there are moments in the film where nothing but silence can be heard forcing your attention to the important scene taking place. The overhead shots and use of fog created a sense of secrecy and danger complementing the risky journey the two priests were a part of.
Scorsese has been working on and off with this movie ever since the early 90’s. It is the very definition of a passion project and despite his legal battles with production companies and the developmental hell that the movie went through, he created another memorable and extensive movie. Experiencing Silence and Scorsese is a unique opportunity and one that won’t occur much longer in the future.