Silence review: by Rob Stoakes
UK certification: 15
Poor Andrew Garfield. He’s clearly dedicated to his craft and he’s by no means a bad actor, but with his legacy already tainted by being the worst Spiderman in the worst Spiderman films, a pair of films so bad that Marvel officially took joint custody of the property like an abused child, Andrew Garfield has had to back away from blockbusters. The plan is clearly to be in a few indie films, maybe some supporting role in a bigger flick, and then with a healthy dose of experience under his belt he can make a triumphant return as…
Whoops! You’re in the leading role in a super-serious Oscar hopeful directed by Martin Scorsese and you have to act alongside Liam Neeson. Good luck!
It’s not hard to wonder what Garfield thought he was getting himself into. Much like his character, ironically, as Garfield and fellow member of the “what-am-I-even-doing-here” club Adam Driver play Portuguese (no, seriously) monks travelling to Japan to find Liam Neeson. Japan has outlawed Christianity by pain of torture and death, and it is up to Garfield to provide hope and suffer through indignity and be betrayed and have a beard and Jesusy Jesus all up in his own Jesusing.
Ok, that’s not entirely fair. Scorsese is a lot smarter than, say, the crew behind God is Not Dead 2, and fully acknowledges that as much as he would like to think so, Garfield’s Father Rodriguez is not Jesus. Overall the film is heavy, subdued and cynical, questioning what the worth of faith really is, accented by a deep, thoughtful and darkly written script. A fun romp through the flowers this is not…
… which makes some of the directing choices really, really weird. Now, technically, there is almost no fault in this film, Scorsese has a command of the camera that is as versatile as it is captivating. No, it’s his choices in mise en scene that are baffling.
Badly superimposed cartoon Jesus, new characters suddenly appearing in narration with outrageous foreign accents, the main villain sounding and acting a bit like a Looney Tunes character; moments of levity are vital in a super depressing drama like this to not make it a chore to sit through, but this is like holding a pie eating contest during the Dresden bombings.
Despite the odd directing choices, Silence is the sort of film that I’m disappointed in myself for not liking more than I do, and I already like it quite a bit. The near-lack of a soundtrack is a bold choice, and as previously mentioned Scorsese is at least visually on top form, even with taking a slower pace than his normal style.
It’s one thing to make a film look good when you’re filming in exotic locations; it’s quite another to do so in some of the ugliest and bleakest places in the world, and Scorsese does wonders to the Japanese landscape. There is also a tense atmosphere throughout; you fully understand the hopeless struggle the Christians are going through and you fully believe their pain.
I think, though, the reason that I’m hesitant to give Silence my full seal of approval is Garfield himself. He has moments of brilliance, with several scenes where he has to tell a lot of story without speaking and pulls it off wonderfully, but at other times he looks completely out of his depth.
His character is irritating and a bit stupid, intentionally so, but it doesn’t always appear like Garfield knows that, and often times you’ll get moments where he has to portray two emotions at once and ends up just giving a blank stare to Liam Neeson. For the record, putting these two in the same movie is just unfair. When Garfield is on he is on, but I think this role, oddly enough, calls for a bit more bombast than he was willing to give. Charleton Heston could’ve knocked this role out of the park.
Still, maybe Garfield will have time to go into some smaller, less strenuous pictures…
Whoops! You’re in the leading role in a super-serious Oscar hopeful directed by Mel Gibson in full-blown crazy-Jesus-BDSM mode. Good luck!
Budget: $50 million/Music: Kathryn & Kim Allen Kluge/Length: 161 minutes