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Silence • Patriots Day

January 19, 2017

Silence (** ½) R

Martin Scorsese is unquestionably one of our greatest living directors. As such, he’s earned the right to make a picture every now and then about a subject near and dear to his heart. One could make the argument that all of his films reflect his own passion/personal vision but some projects certainly stand out more than others on the filmmaker’s resume. The films Scorsese has made which deal with spirituality and religion (The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun) are the kinds of films that used to be commonplace in the movie marketplace of our not so distant past. His latest film, Silence, is the type of picture from which passion oozes out of every last frame and will certainly fit nicely alongside some of Scorsese’s other explorations into that world. It’s certainly refreshing to see this kind of personal filmmaking coming to fruition in a world where it’s become all too rare and that’s one of the positive takeaways from the mere existence of the film.

Silence is based on the 1966 novel by Shusako Endo. It tells the story of a pair of Portuguese priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) in the 1600s who are attempting to locate their adviser and colleague (Liam Neeson) while simultaneously carrying out a mission in Japan to spread God’s word.

Liam Neeson in Silence

 In their quest they also discover that those attempting to spread Christianity are being faced with the choice of either denouncing their faith or being put to death. This, of course, puts the duo’s spiritual strength to the test and also allows Scorsese the filmmaker to explore many nagging questions regarding spiritual matters, particularly in the final section of the film.

Silence is, obviously, a labor of love and it’s a film that Scorsese had hoped to make for several decades. The technical aspects, as per the norm in a Scorsese film, are superb. Unfortunately, Silence seems to also be the kind of project that may have possibly been too close to the heart of its creator. At 160 minutes it unfortunately lumbers along for too long during its first hour, a miscalculation from which the film never recovers even as it picks up steam during its second half. And, the film ends up with a bit of an oversimplified denouement that doesn’t quite gel with other parts of the picture. Credit must be given to Scorsese and his co-writer Jay Cocks for their passion to get the film made even if it ends being a bit of a mixed bag in the end.

Patriots Day (***) R

It would seem that star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have carved out something of a niche for themselves in regards to dramatizing recent events ripped from the headlines. Their first effort at this sort of thing, Lone Survivor, lead to nice box office results and favorable audience reactions, even if some critics-myself included-were a bit lukewarm toward the film. Following on the heels of their recent dramatization of the Gulf oil spill, Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg/Berg have opted to set their sites on the Boston Marathon bombing from 2013 in the aptly titled pic Patriots Day. Of these three efforts, Patriots Day, for me at least, turns out to be the most satisfying of the trio. That’s mainly due to a riveting and excellently staged final act that might also serve to enlighten viewers in regards to some of the lesser publicized aspects of the story. Of course the normal dramatic license that one expects in this kind of film is most certainly at play here but the film still manages to hold its own and remains fairly compelling throughout.

Wahlberg, as expected, has the lead as Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders.

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day

He’s at the center of the film and figures more prominently in the denouement than during the first section of the pic although he’s certainly an integral presence all the way around. The film also benefits from the presence of such dependable actors as J.K. Simmons, John Goodman and Kevin Bacon in supporting roles that are integral to the story.

The first hour of Patriots Day is probably the least interesting as it somewhat predictably sets up the various characters going through the motions of their day. The depiction of the actual bombing that took place at the 2013 marathon is a well staged sequence but it still feels somewhat rote in comparison to other dramatizations of this sort of thing.

Where Patriots Day really scores is during the closing hour of the film, which depicts the manhunt for the perpetrators of the attacks. This section is chillingly staged and manages to maintain a maximum amount of suspense during its unveiling. Even though we know the outcome one still can’t help but be overcome by the emotion of it all. I suppose that’s a testament to Berg’s mastery of this sort of thing. He may not be the most even handed of directors but when he finds his groove his direction can be quite effective.

The film ends with footage of some of the real victims and dedications to those whose lives were lost. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness but the film also manages to give us hope in regards to the ‘never say quit’ attitude of the survivors of the attack. It’s a fitting testament to those who had to endure such a dark day in our recent history. 

Patriots Day and Silence are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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