Silence **

Martin Scorsese eschews his trademark high-energy style, and the result is disappointing. 

Is it worth $10? No

Notably lacking from Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” is the distinctive style that makes the master auteur’s work special. There’s very little music (mostly just singing), no sweeping camera movements, and precious few filmmaking techniques on display. Consequently nothing about the movie is captivating, and at times it’s barely interesting, resulting in a dull slog of 161 minutes.

The story, written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”) and adapted from the Shusaku Endo novel of the same name, is one of religious imperialism and philosophy. In 1640, Portuguese Jesuit priests Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) venture to Japan to find their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Because the roughly 300,000 Christians in Japan are being persecuted for their beliefs, Rodrigues and Garrpe believe Ferreira is in danger. They know the Buddhist majority is murdering Christians in inhumane ways, but assume the risk regardless, citing God’s will for strength and guidance.

It’s on the journey to find Ferreira that the film grinds to a screeching halt. He’s not easy to locate, and the Christians who’re eager to help have no idea where he is. The plot then becomes episodic as Rodrigues and Garrpe soothe Christians with confessions and teachings, all the while wary of Inquisitors coming to kill them. As Rodrigues journeys from one village to the next it also becomes repetitive, with the only creativity being the brutal ways Christians are murdered.

When you look at your watch after an hour and a half, and sigh in dread that you have another hour to go, it’s a terrible feeling. And after the last hour doesn’t get any better, your feeling is validated, though you of course don’t feel good about this because it means the movie never improves.

To its credit, the story raises thought-provoking issues, albeit in a mundane way. At its core, this is about the desire to continue to have faith even as it conflicts with your experiences. Surely no just and merciful God would allow innocent people to die at the hands of extremists, right? Prayer is used to ensure this will not happen, but when prayers aren’t answered, Rodrigues and Garrpe can’t help but question their beliefs.

The idea of spreading religion where it’s not wanted is also discussed, which is certainly prescient now as well. Your religious inclinations will likely dictate the way you interpret how Christianity and Buddhism are depicted, but it’s nonetheless worth pointing out that Scorsese doesn’t seem to be picking sides. He’s interested only in asking the questions, and through the strength of Garfield, Adams and Neeson’s performances, trying to find answers becomes heart wrenching and complex.

Unfortunately, it all plays out in a way that’s exhaustingly tedious. A movie doesn’t have to be flashy to be good, but here the editing certainly needs to be tighter, which would quicken the pace. Martin Scorsese is going for a distinctly subtle feel in “Silence,” and if he succeeds he succeeds too well, because it’s all so subtle and quiet that it never resonates.

Did you know?
It took nearly 30 years for Scorsese to get the film made:

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