*NEW* SILENCE REVIEW *NEW*

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Silence was probably the best reaction I could muster after this arduous affair.

Two priests travel to Japan in an attempt to locate their mentor and propagate Catholicism.

There were moments where I felt I was being tortured with the priests and NOT in a good way (If there is a good way).

I’m a fan of Scorsese. Who isn’t? (If you’re not, get out of here!) Goodfellas, Casino, Shutter Island, Taxi Driver, the list goes on. We all have our favourites.

BUT his latest foray into religion left me a little numb and downtrodden.

This may have been a long term project finally coming to life BUT I found myself befuddled and lost in what the movie maestro was trying to do.

The strong opening sequence certainly grabbed my attention. The sound of crickets getting louder and louder until . . . NOTHING . . . Silence. The credits rolled. An air of unease as figures shifted around the foggy marshes.

The fog cleared to reveal crucifixes. The tone was set. My curiousity peaked. Cue the most challenging three hours of my life.

Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography was hauntingly beautiful. In one shot, he could make a dilapidated village look desolate and deadly to warm and inviting. A masterstroke.

The first act was slow BUT engaging as Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) was forced to watch the torture of his own clergymen. His grim voice over describing every detail.

It was brutal as the priests had their bodies scolded with hot spring water. To stop the punishment; all they had to do was denounce God by stepping on a face plate of Jesus.

I felt Silence had a hint of Heart of Darkness with Ferreira’s whereabouts unknown (Yes, an absent Neeson. Disappointing). Only whispers in the wind suggesting his demise with some even saying the priest had abandoned his faith and taken refuge with the Japanese.

Andrew Garfield was fantastic as the naive Rodrigues. Refusing to believe the gossip and desperate to seek the truth. I don’t think I would have been as interested if he wasn’t at the helm. He carried the piece.

I was constantly on edge throughout the film. The unease and suspense was executed perfectly. All the secrecy and creeping around for two priests to deliver Midnight Mass. The villagers hiding in the dark. Afraid to announce their faith.

The silence was unsettling. Scorsese created a tranquil and haunting atmosphere. By the first hour, I was surprised to still be absorbed in this story as the priests hid under the floorboards to evade capture from The Inquisitor (Issei Ogata).

I loved the little nods to Akira Kurosawa. The influences were everywhere from the camera shots to the set design.

Jay Cocks (Don’t laugh. Come on now) and Scorsese penned a fantastic script. There were some great bits of dialogue. I haven’t read the Shusaku Endo novel so I don’t know how much of that praise goes to the author.

Adam Driver was surprisingly good as Garupe. I’ve only really known him as the loud mouth who loves sex and nachos in What If or the sulky emo Sith from Star Wars. He made a great duo with Garfield.

However, the middle act was where Scorsese should have trimmed the fat. It could have been cut by a good 40 minutes and this was where the problem began for me.

Ogata’s strangely eccentric and bizarrely camp performance as Inquisitor Inoue was a mixed bag for me.

His religious sparring with Rodrigues was brilliant. Two stubborn figures debating their cause and defending their faiths. BUT as they tackled these strong themes, beliefs and values, I could feel my attention waning.

The endless torture sequences were relentless as the Japanese continued to punish any self-proclaimed Christians and their loved ones. The agonising length and exhaustive monologuing soon had a cathartic effect.

I was disappointed when Rodrigues and Garupe split up to spread the good word. Driver’s absence was missed. Their dismal reunion was too rushed and abrupt for my liking.

Kichijiro’s character (Yôsuke Kubozuka) infuriated me. The cowardly villager that continually betrayed Rodrigues. Only to return to confess. I knew where I would have told him to go.

BUT if anything, he encapsulated the hypocrisy of the confession. As if being granted forgiveness by God would make up for his treachery?!

Tadanobu Asano was delightfully smug as the Interpreter. Toying with Rodrigues as he faced trial for his faith. Laughing at the priest’s belief. Knowing that resistance was futile.

The final act was tense, gripping and hard going as Rodrigues finally discovered Ferreira’s demise.

The film really put me through a rollercoaster ride of emotions BUT I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it. I considered seeking the novel for answers BUT I felt drained.

It was a daunting affair that certainly lingered long after my viewing BUT for the right reasons? Or just for the sheer disappointment?

Silence will determine the die hards from the Scorsese fans. If you fancy a completely different tone and direction with a fantastically acted religious drama, then this may be for you.

BUT anybody else may find this a testing effort that will lose you along the way.

Me? I’m still some what in-between.

2.5/5

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47 RONIN REVIEW

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The Not so Magnificent 47?

Or as many critics have called it. The 90 million dollar flop?!

Watchable, if a little patchy and predictable, with great visuals that worked well in 3D.

47 Ronin is a fantastical take on an Chushingura (a Japanese fictional account) about a group of samurai who avenged their master in 18th Century Japan.

We watch outcast Kai (Reeves) as he is taken in by the samurai after being raised and trained by demons (Still with me? Good). The obvious ensues, in which Reeves is never really accepted BUT their master Lord Asano still continues to keep him around. To make matters worse, an obvious and cliched forbidden romance brews between Reeves and Asanos’ daughter (the beautiful Ko Shibasaki).

It all got a little bogged down with backstory that wasn’t really interesting and quite befuddling with Asano being tricked into attacking his rival Kira (Tadanobu Asano) by Kira’s own sorceress, the alluring Mizuki (Rinko Kinuchi). Some hoodoo about dishonour and Asano is ordered to commit suicide by the Shogun. Leaving Kira to marry Asano’s daughter.

However, Kai and Asano’s loyal servant Vassal Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) team up with the rest of the banished samurai to prevent the wedding and avenge their shamed master. It was all a little by the book relieved by a few outstanding visual pieces. 

A beautiful mess. The Last Samurai with demons. The feudal Japan landscape was visually stunning. The opening sequence in which the samurai hunted down a demon was fantastic. The 3D was impressive with blades, trees and demons flying out at ya!

Keanu was dreadfully wooden in this outing. He looked the part BUT my God. A tree giant from The Lord of The Rings could have done a better job. Luckily, he managed to muster some chemistry in the final minutes with Shibasaki.

Kira’s villain was quite pathetic and very passive. If not for Kinuchi’s sorceress, the pair would have been the worst villains since Bambi and Thumper in Diamonds Are Forever. Sanada was very good. It’s great to see him getting awarded with bigger roles, especially after his supporting roles in Revenge and the epic Last Samurai.

Luckily where 47 Ronin lacks in originality, it redeems itself with animation, special effects and choreographed fight sequences (The little that there was). The props, sets and costumes were stunning. Except for Hiroyuki Tagawa. It was incredibly hard to take the main Shogun seriously when he looks like an angry Humpty Dumpty. 

The slave ship fight sequence was spectacular. Racy, action packed, more please! The visuals on the demon master that trained Reeves? Not so much. Looked more like Eagle from the Muppets :/

The questionable running time did drag in parts and felt like it was building up for a big finale. A big gamble if the finale doesn’t deliver. Luckily, it was a sight to see.

The animation went borderline overkill with Kikuchi’s sorceress transforming into an agitated Japanese Falcor. The Matrix nerd in me was buzzing. That sequence was how I wanted Matrix Revolutions to end with the OZ-esque head made of Squiddies battling it out with Neo.

It was easy to dissect the plot holes BUT what annoyed me was that the filmmakers created this incredible visual world that inhabited demons and sorcery. However, in trying to stay true to the retelling of the Ronin, they didn’t do enough with the fantasy element.

That was it’s secret weapon and what separated it from the numerous retellings of the samurai tale. BUT the demons just made random appearances to break up the monotonous story and the spiritual stuff didn’t really kick off until the finale. Stunning and entertaining but too little, too late?

A watchable BUT eye catching mess. However, for those familiar with the samurai culture, once their objective is achieved, there is only one ending (without spoiling too much).

If you’re a fan of the samurai or fantasy, then give it a go. Not the worst, but certainly not the best.

2.5/5