Critic Consensus: Silence ends Martin Scorsese's decades-long creative quest with a thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director's finest works.
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Critic Reviews for Silence
While the craftsmanship is undeniable and the themes of spiritual belief, betrayal and redemption are laudable, the film feels flat and not as emotional or moving as it should be.
Scorsese doesn't glorify martyrdom, and he doesn't even hate the killers. He makes death as blunt and dull and useless as a snapped pencil. The point is that there is no point.
For those not exulted by the inner-workings of devotion, it's a slog.
This may not be Scorsese's best film, but it's unquestionably his most impassioned.
Audience Reviews for Silence
While the cast is great, the cinematography makes for a gorgeous looking film and the themes are laudable, they are hard to connect to when you have little relation to faith. It doesn't help that the film is way too slow, long, self important and not as moving as it should be. A pretty exhausting experience, while the images linger on, the emotions do not.
Martin Scorsese is, undoubtedly, one of the great American filmmakers. For over 40 years he has been the guy that has wanted to wash the scum off the streets; claimed it's better to be King for a night than schmuck for a lifetime; advised us to never to rat on our friends and to go home and get our fuckin' shine boxes. These classic cinematic moments aside, he's also known for the occasional deviation from the norm of his criminal outings and delivered films with deep religious themes; The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun and now Silence completes his unofficial religious trilogy. Plot: In 17th century Japan - at a time when Catholicism was outlawed - two Portugese Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) travel to the foreign land in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who's lack of correspondence and silence has led to rumours of his apostasy. In order to find the truth behind his disappearence, the two missionaries decide to enter dangerous territories where Christians are tortured and killed, putting their own faith to the ultimate test. Having a religious faith has always been a recurring theme throughout Scorsese's filmography. Despite Catholicism predominantly being the focus, he did embrace the Buddhist philosophy when he delivered the fascinating saga, Kundun in 1997. With Silence, Marty takes us back to the guilt-ridden suffering that his Catholic faith has, seemingly, brought him. It's clear from the opening of this film that Scorsese wants to go big and the truth is, he goes very big. This is a film on a grand scale. Not just in terms of visuals but in terms of its dense and thought provoking themes. For all it's religious rhetoric, though, it manages to avoid preaching. And that's what I respect most about Scorsese's endeavours. There's a deep commentary on the importance of different cultures and the influences they have on belief systems, psyche's and human nature. This is a thought provoking examination on the desperation of faith and greater need to believe that it will prevent suffering in life and provide absolution. Alas, it may lead to nothing. Some people's faith might stand strong while others will be led on a journey of self-discovery and an eventual reluctance to tread a preordained path. Scorsese ponders hard on whether faith has any substance or tangible affinity with a supreme or celestial being. Despite being raised Catholic myself, I personally think it's wholly illogical and such a ridiculous notion that it has become a socially accepted form of madness. Granted, if not take literally, it can provide some comfort in the vast enigma of our existence but I prefer to approach life in accordance with science and logic and, like some of the characters in this story, I had to turn my back on blind acceptance. Although this is based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô - who wrote from the rare perspective of being a Japanese Roman Catholic - this feels a lot like Scorsese exercising his own demons and how faith and it's constructs have held him back within his own personal life. In some senses the film is a close relative to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Organised religion may take the place of Coppola's tribal spiritualism but this is no less an existential journey than Cpt. Willard's search for Col. Kurtz. Here we have Garfield (delivering an excellent performance and deliberately looking like Christ himself on occasion) and Driver - who perfectly capture the youthful naiveté of their devotion. Their search for their mentor Neeson, who has abandoned his faith and succumbed to eastern beliefs, captures the same intrigue and wonder that Apocalypse Now possessed in terms of a once devoted man now choosing a completely different and unexplained path. And what right does one's beliefs have over another? This is the crux of the film and Scorsese poses this crux without ever having to be forceful. He lets it smoulder and the events and beliefs explain themselves. Throughout this journey, Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto conjure up very striking and haunting imagery. They don't shy away from depicting human suffering but they also look at the beauty of our world and look aghast at how we "under the watchful eye of God", can commit atrocities to one another. This is, somewhat, of a demanding film and it requires a certain patience but if you give it your commitment, it's a thoroughly rewarding experience. Scorsese lets loose on a subject that is very close to his heart. We've seen religious symbolism and references throughout his work over the years but none have been as potent as his work is here. Mark Walker
It begins heavy-handed and moves only gradually towards greatness, raising intelligent questions about the merits and virtue of faith when one follows a silent deity that prompts men into arrogance and blind devotion despite all the suffering that this may cause to others.
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