This film tells the story of two Catholic missionaries who go by the names Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) as they travel to Japan to search for their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), its not quite that simple though, oh no! This is no buddy adventure film. The year is 1640 and christianity is outlawed within Japan, punishable by death, those who practice do so in secret out of fear of their lives.
Theres a closer focus upon Rodrigues as he battles with his faith and in the face of numerous injustices to those native to Japan who follow the Christian practice.
The film opens upon Father Ferreira as he is made bare witness to the death of a number of christians, it quickly solidifies the tone of the film as we watch them slowly get tortured to death by continuously being subjected to scalding hot water upon their bare flesh. It’s a heavy film that explores an equally heavy theme, that being how long can one draw strength in their faith when faced with increasingly intense challenges and horrific circumstances.
Let’s get into it then shall we, Its directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese. First of all I just wanna say this is a pretty long film with a run time of around 160 minutes, that’s genuinely the main reason why I was always so hesitant to sit down and properly watch it. (plus I’ve never really been drawn to Scorsese as a filmmaker) A film about a couple of priests running around Japan for two hours and forty minutes didn’t sound all that appealing to me quite honestly. However, I finally threw caution to the wind and gave this religious period piece a shot, and as it turns out this might just be my favourite Scorsese flick.
It’s a long film yes but it doesn’t feel like that at all, the pace is swift and smooth. I never felt the length of it at all as I watching it. I was immediately absorbed into the mid 17th century world this film projects forward. The visuals are just utterly gorgeous throughout the entire run time, the cinematographer ’Rodrigo Pietro’ done an absolutely incredible job (he’s worked on a number of Scorsese picture). There were a number of scenes that seemed to be only lit with natural light and they just looked breathtaking. The costume and set designs were stunning as well, completely engrossing you in the world. It’s just a beautiful film all around.
The Priest Rodrigues is played by ‘Andrew Garfield’, Garupe is played ‘Adam Driver’ and Father Ferreira is played by ‘Liam Neeson, all three of them give solid performances especially Garfield who plays the compassionate, loving and over all desperate missionary stunningly, seeing the journey his character goes through and the performance he gives off is heart wrenching and powerful. Another notable cast member is ‘Yōsuke Kubozuka’ who plays the character of Kichijiro who’s a vagrant that continuously betrays his faith then comes circling back to ask for forgiveness, almost shadowing Garfields character acting as a reminder and a testament to his faith.
Overall its a stunning film with palpable performances that tells the tale of the horrible injustices and treatment the christian faith endured within Japan during the 17th century, Its rather far flung from the rest of Scorsese filmography but I believe it to be his most powerful and heavy hitting film.