Martin Scorsese has the same problem Quentin Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, and Terrence Malick have. They’ve done great films, and so now they think nothing should be edited out of their movies. They give us films that are longer than they need to be. It’s a shame, because The Wolf of Wall Street would’ve been great with 30 minutes taken out of it. I do love Scorsese’s passion for certain projects. Hugo was a terrific love letter to early Hollywood, and when it came out (2011), it was The Artist that got all the praise for showing old Hollywood [Hugo was better].
This is now the third film Scorsese has done about religion, and he’s been trying to get it made for 30 years. It’s a shame that audiences won’t want to give it more than 30 minutes. The film is damn near 3 hours long, and it’s a dull slog to sit through.
It’s the 17th century in Japan, and two Portuguese Jesuit priests go searching for colleague Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who they fear may have been killed, or perhaps he’s in hiding somewhere, or converted against his will.
My first problem with this film was the two priests. Perhaps because I just saw him dealing with horrific battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge…or his huge hair…Andrew Garfield was just a distraction. You might also be thinking of him as Spider-Man.
The always welcome Adam Driver, distracts you even more with those huge ears, and the amount of weight he lost for the role. I’m still trying to decide what was more boring, this film or Driver’s Patterson (which will be out soon). The two actors also don’t play off each other so well.
Rodrigues (Garfield) and Garrpe (Driver) sail to Japan and meet up with a group of Christians that are in hiding. We see some brutal scenes of the Christians that are captured being tortured if they don’t convert to Buddhism. Some of them are boiled alive from hot springs. Others are tied to crosses in the ocean. Some are buried upside down. Many are beheaded. As Scorsese has been known to do — we see a lot of these tortures reenacted.
Another Scorsese trademark over the last decade, has been repetitive scenes. There are many of them here, and when you have a three hour running time, there’s really no excuse.
We do get some scenic cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto (Wolf of Wall Street, Brokeback Mountain, Babel, Argo, Water for Elephants, to name a few); yet, we don’t get any of the inventive camera work that we’ve come to expect from Martin. There are a few shots from high above that work nicely, though. Prieto also captures the fog, the fire, the ocean waves well.
A few things popped into my mind while watching this (as I fought so hard not to fall asleep). One of them was…if these two priests would’ve stayed in their homeland, what would they have thought about the Inquisition of Jews and Muslims in Portugal? Wasn’t that similar to what was considered so atrocious to them here? Also, I was a bit perplexed as to why the Japanese decided to try and persuade Rodrigues instead of just beheading him. Perhaps it’s because actor Issei Ogata is the most interesting actor to watch on screen.
Tadanobu Asano is also interesting as the interpreter, and Yosuke Kubozuka as a fainthearted convert always wanting absolution.
The film needed more subtlety, and it needed to be a more moving journey. The audience shouldn’t be the ones feeling tortured. All of that on top of the fact that I’m not even sure exactly what it was Scorsese was trying to say. Certainly you can ask philosophic questions about god and religion in a more interesting way. This movie makes The Last Temptation of Christ look like a masterpiece.
It may have been a passion project for one of the best filmmakers in movie history — but that doesn’t make it an entertaining film.
This gets 2 stars out of 5.