I expected Silence to be this years ‘The Revenant’. A tale of faith and courage against the background of a harsh wilderness and harsher people. I expected Scorsese, of all people, to make a film that made 2 hours and 40 minutes feel brisk. I expected that the great reviews the film was getting were on to something, pointing to the appearance of a new classic.
Nope. Nothing like that.
Silence bored me. It bored the friend I saw it with too. It was really dull and I usually enjoy the long talky films. ‘Spotlight’, for example, was great.
And I’m not angry, I’m not even disappointed. I’m just… frustrated.
There was plenty to like in Silence and plenty of what I saw on the screen was admirable. Yet it amounted to so little in the end I wondered why I even bothered.
I wanted to be drawn in by the story and the characters, tensed up, chewed on then thrown out. Yet I became bored within the first 20 minutes and only a handful of fleeting moments entertained me throughout.
I get what Silence was trying to do, and some may say it succeeded, but I felt so removed from this 17th-century tale of Portuguese priests journeying to a hostile country that I found nothing surprising or even revelatory in it’s painfully long running time.
Cinematically, Scorsese has made something that has beautiful cinematography and a delicate, formidable sound design yet is hampered by a dodgy mix of tones. The self-seriousness of the drama plays out alongside a Monty Python style middle-half where Garfield and Driver play like they’re in a buddy cop movie.
There are weird moments where jokes feel forced upon the characters like they’re moments created by a youtuber editing the trailer to make it a comedy. And it’s not meant to be funny but honestly, sometimes it felt so stilted and awkward, where edits came out of left field to confuse and performances rattled, I felt the need to laugh.
The actors never really manage to nail their accents either. Garfield especially who unfortunately has to do it for the whole of the film as he’s the bloomin’ lead. Then there’s Liam Neeson, who I respect for stretching himself after years of action films (in this and A Monster Calls), but doesn’t even bother making his voice different at all here.
It all just seems so perfunctory. The technical craft is there, no doubt, but it’s hampered by a truly saggy running time and a group of characters who you’re told you’re meant to care about but never actually do.
In some ways, it felt like a horror film at times, almost like a Japanese ‘The Wicker Man’. Which isn’t a tone I think it wanted to go for.
Perhaps Scorsese should’ve handed the big job over to someone with more experience of this type of period piece as he feels very much like a director trying his hand at something new when he should be passing on the reigns.
I respect him for bringing this passion project to life but honestly something doesn’t feel right.
Maybe it’s Garfield and Driver’s incredible hair. It seems to exist in a beautiful place away from the rest of the film, where they’re starring in an advert for hair care products where they play priests who’ve lost all boyuancy in their hair and God sends them……
Sadly Silence only had a handful of interesting scenes and moments, usually involving no words, the sea and the strong performances of it’s cast. These moments of faith being tested were strong and engaging but few and far between.
In the end, the silence in the cinema only ended when the sound of snoring could be heard.