Saturday 29 April 2017

Film review - Silence: an extraordinary film, beautifully and expertly delivered

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Liam Neeson enjoys the agony and endures the ecstasy in 'Silence'
Liam Neeson enjoys the agony and endures the ecstasy in 'Silence'

Martin Scorsese's interest in the Judas figure has marked many of his films from Mean Streets to Goodfellas and The Last Temptation of Christ. And in this film (which he has apparently wanted to make for nearly 30 years, since he first read Shusaku Endo's novel), Judas is again key - this time a 17th century Japanese version called Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), who haunts Portuguese missionary Rodrigues's (Andrew Garfield) journey from profound blind faith through agonies of uncertainty.

It's an extraordinary film, beautifully and expertly delivered, but it's theory heavy rather than plot busy and over its nearly three hour running time might test some audiences' faith too.

Rodrigues and fellow Jesuit Garupe (Adam Driver) are horrified when they hear that their former mentor Fr Ferreira (Liam Neeson) may not only have apostatised in Japan, but gone over to the dark side. Although their superior (Ciaran Hinds) is against the idea they are determined to go to Japan to find out what they can, save Ferreira and salvage which was once a flourishing missionary outpost now fallen foul of Japanese laws making Christianity illegal.

The journey is long and arduous but nothing compared to what they find in Japan. Their Judas, Kichijiro, appears early and while the more dogmatic Garupe is tormented more by fleas than doubt, Rodrigues, horrified by what the locals are put through for their faith and God's total silence, begins a crisis of belief that runs the film.

Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography is beautiful, Scorsese's direction restrained and the performances excellent. But it is a three hour film about faith.

★★★★

Aine O'Connor

Assassin's Creed

Cert: 12A: Opens today

Hopes that one day we'll see a decent video-game movie are once again dashed with the release of this mega-budget adaptation of Assassin's Creed. It remains unclear why the gaming format refuses to cross over to celluloid with any elegance. Are such films too shackled by the blueprint of the original, or are interfering gaming companies - Ubisoft, in this instance - too interested in product promo over good narrative filmmaking?

Both issues may have played a part here. Justin Kurzel reunites with Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard while also finding things to do for Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Essie Davis and Brendan Gleeson.

A fine cast, indeed, and not to blame for the failings. There are good action set-pieces, well choreographed against a heady inquisition-era Andalucia.

Only when you pan back from this cold, detached film does its faults clearly present themselves.

In short, the game's premise is unsuitable for mining dramatic tension. Callum (Fassbender) is on death row for murder but wakes up in the HQ of the Knights Templar. Cotillard's scientist explains that they need him to go back in time to retrieve a golden apple that contains the secret to free will. Before you can say The Matrix, he's hooked up to a robotic arm that lets him kick virtual butt in 1492. He pops out when he's done, rows with Cotillard, and nips back in for the next level. Besides this dullness, it's also a tad too violent for a 12A cert.

★★

Hilary A White

Endless Poetry

Cert 18: From January 6 at the IFI

Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky has had a long and diverse career in the arts. Now 87 his instincts are more introspective - and Endless Poetry is the second of a planned five film memoir (the first was 2013's The Dance of Reality).

It's beautiful, funny, obtuse, long and niche-market but surprisingly moving in places. Taking up where the first film left off it sees the bookish and misunderstood teenage Alejandro tire of his father's insults and abandon home for a place where his artistic interests will be appreciated. Emerging into the world of Santiago in the 1940s (and played by Jodorowsky's youngest son Adan) he is quietly keen to embrace all that he can.

Gently poking fun at Chilean national treasure poet Pablo Neruda, and the reverence for poetry, it leads to punk muse Stella (Pamela Flores) and a boho sexual world (the 18 cert is for sex, not violence).

Jodorowsky, who appears occasionally to give his younger self advice, delivers what is perhaps his most accessible film, one in which his admiration for Fellini is evident. It appears random but has some really impactful emotional insights.

★★★

Aine O'Connor

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