Scott Bailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
Silence is without a doubt the most gruelling and enduring film I have seen from Martin Scorsese. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō, and is a 25 year long project for Scorsese as he wanted to do the source material justice, this 2 hour 40 minute religious epic about persecution and suffering may not be for everyone but the painstaking attention to detail and the performance from Andrew Garfield in my opinion really pays off.
Set in the 17th century, two Jesuit priests Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francis Garrpe (Adam Driver) travel to Japan to find their mentor Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who betrayed and apostatised against the Christian faith in the midst of persecution. Christianity is outlawed by the Tokugawa shogunate, and many who were caught serving their faith were killed and martyred and was tortured for days.
Silence is a harrowing piece of filmmaking that I feel accurately puts across what it's like for someone's faith to be truly put through a painful and agonising test. There are horrifying depictions of torture throughout, yet it is never gratuitous and it always serves a purpose to the story. It is uncomfortable to watch because it is uncompromising filmmaking from start to finish, and as stunning as the visuals are in this film, it's the use of sound that stands out the most. Some scenes are just agonising to watch simply because of the sound of people screaming, other standout scenes have a prolonged silence to them.
Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson are terrific in their individual roles and the way they are affected by the trials and tribulations and how their faith is constantly being tested and questioned to the point where they wonder what the point in it all was all felt very real and believable and Garfield in particular gives possibly the best performance I've seen from him. The slow pacing was actually very effective in this movie as the believable characters and situations, made this a truly riveting and gripping experience for me.
If you've seen any of Akira Kurosawa's films, there is definitely a bares a resemblance in the way it was shot. The wide landscape shots in this film just look beautiful and the behaviour and mannerisms of some of the characters just stood out so much.
The biggest thing that didn't work for me in this movie was the casting of Issey Ogata as Inquisitor Inoue. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but I just found his performance really comical and it really affects the tone for me. I also found the last half hour of this does feel dragged out for me.
This won't go down as my favourite Martin Scorsese film because it was such a gruelling watch for me, that I don't think I will be rewatching this in a very long time, but that's also what makes it so powerful and I do think this will go down as one of his most accomplished films in years to come. It is a skilfully crafted movie that left me feeling numb once the end credits rolled and the themes of people suffering so much for what they believe in will resonate with a lot of people.