Tag Archives: Adam Driver

Critics Choice at Beau Cinema: Silence

Silence movie posterAs pointed out by Wynter Tyson (one of the curators of the #CriticsChoice series at Beau Cinema) during his introduction to this screening of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the revered director has, throughout his career, often explored elements of faith in his work.

From the more obvious in the The Last a Temptation Of Christ to references in Gangs of New York to, arguably, a mirroring of a kind of corrupted faith in Wolf of Wall StreetSilence though follows Last Temptation in being a more direct take on the subject.

The film tells the story of a pair for Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) on a mission to Japan in the 17th century to continue the development of Christianity in the country and seek out the fate of their teacher, Padre Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

From the start, a fog shrouded scene featuring severed heads and a particularly unique and specific form of torture being administered to a group of Christian priests told from the point of view of Ferreira, it’s clear this is going to be a deep, dark journey and exploration of faith, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Silence movie - Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver

Garfield and Driver

While Scorsese is perfectly adept at everything from b-movie style fare to bright modern drama, here he more than proves why he is as regarded as he is as one of Hollywood’s best directors.

Every moment of Silence feels created with all aspects coming together to create something all-encompassing.

The sound design particularly stands out (as the title might suggest) being very low-key but highlighting what it needs to without resorting to the grand sweeping orchestrations or stereotypically ethnic sounds a lesser director might.

Silence - Liam Neeson


This allows the visuals, which range from the rusticity beautiful to the genuinely brutal, to really stand out and strike in a way that is never melodramatic, giving the whole thing a sense of realism that is really absorbing.

While Liam Neeson’s appearance feels something like an extended cameo in the mould of his turns as Qui-Gon Jin in The Phantom Menace or Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins (just a little more serious) and Adam Driver brings an impressive intensity to Padre Francisco Garupe, it is Andrew Garfield who owns the film.

Garfield, as Padre Sebastião Rodrigues, is the film’s centre and really, despite the historical themes surrounding him, it is his journey that is the central plot.

We watch him struggle with his faith both physically and psychologically in a way that is (for the most part) brilliantly understated but gradually works its way into a truly effective and effecting place that shows a side to him I honestly never thought possible based on his pair of outings as Spider-Man (an unfair comparison I realise, but it makes the point).

Silence - Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson

Garfield and Neeson

While I’m not sure the film effected me on the spiritual level that it would Scorsese, or indeed anyone of a more religious or spiritual bent, Silence is a genuinely impressive piece of cinema.

It both manages to capture a period of history I knew not as much about and also allows space for a very real feeling story to be told without resorting to typical over the top cinematic tricks to manipulate its audience or rushing to explain every last thing, meaning it will likely sit in the back of my mind for a good while to come.

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars - The Force Awakens posterBefore we get to the review I want to give it a little context. This was written based on my initial thoughts after a midnight screening on release day. For a film that is part of a series that has genuinely meant a huge amount to me over the years I realise aspects may be skewed by this, on top of which I have done my utmost to avoid any ‘spoilers’ – so without further ado my thoughts on The Force Awakens.

Simply heading into the cinema for the first midnight screening in living memory in Guernsey would have made this an exceptional event. The fact that the film that had sold our modest four-screener was the new film in the Star Wars saga made it something entirely other.

The Lucasfilm logo, that opening sentence in blue on black and then John Williams signature orchestral blast and the yellow words floating before a star field and instantly it was clear everyone in the cinema was back in the far off galaxy, but here is where the real nerves set in.

The ‘opening crawl’ of the (rightly) much-maligned prequel trilogy had very much set the tone for the poorly written, pointlessly over complicated, story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Here though, as soon as the first sentence appeared it was clear things were as they should be and the air of relief was nearly palpable.

X-Wings - The Force Awakens

X-Wing fighters

From there, epic space opera reigned for two and a bit hours as we charted the exploits of the Resistance against the First Order, loosely mirroring the Rebel Alliance and Empire of the original, classic, trilogy. This is something that is a trademark of The Force Awakens.

Throughout, from characters to locations to plot points, there are reflections of what is already familiar. The real trick that makes them work is these reflections are twisted just enough to balance familiarity with something new, vibrant, energetic and modern. In many ways exactly what director JJ Abrams did with his Star Trek movies, but here even more successfully – as if his previous big screen blockbusters had been something of a warm up act.

As with the original trilogy it is the characters that stand out and our trio of ‘new recruits’, Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, echo their earlier counterparts of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo in unexpected ways, while that original trio also make a return.

Rey and Finn on Jakku - The Force Awakens

Rey and Finn on Jakku

Again the art here is in balance, enough homage is paid to the characters we already know but never at the expense of the new set who all come to the fore and are as relatable and engaging as they could be.

Along with this Rey (Daisy Ridley) shows signs of becoming a true blockbuster movie heroine the likes of which I really don’t ever remember seeing in such a mainstream family movie (the nearest potential touchstone is Ellen Ripley in the Alien series).

When it comes to the villains there is a host of English accented First Order officers and then there is Kylo Ren. Ostensibly this movie’s Darth Vader it soon becomes clear that is to do a disservice to both characters as Adam Driver brings an entirely different presence and take on the dark side of the force to anything we have yet seen, hinting at even more development of the light vs. dark dynamic than ever before.

Of course it wouldn’t be Star Wars without droids. Two droids were the linchpin of the original trilogy and it seems a new astromech is here to add to them in the form of ‘ball droid’ BB-8.

BB-8 - The Force Awakens


On a technical level the apparently mostly physical prop is amazing and I still can’t quite work out how they made it and where the lines of real and CGI are.

In terms of character BB-8 is a genuinely effecting, adorable and above all fun character who, much like R2-D2 did nearly 40 years ago, becomes as integral a character as any of his human counterparts.

Humour is another strong factor in The Force Awakens as, while it is arguably one of the most emotionally intense films in the series, it is also by far and away the funniest.

A particularly striking thing about this is, rather than coming from a designated ‘comic relief’ character, all the hero characters have light and shade in this area, echoing Han Solo in the original films, and in fact here, as Harrison Ford seems to not just be playing ‘General’ Solo but is the Corellian smuggler in a genuinely uncanny way.

In terms of plot it’s hard to discuss much without spoiling things (and I really don’t want to be the guy who does that), but it takes a similar arc to A New Hope with the Resistance working to stop the First Order in their plan to regain control of the galaxy. Again though this is all twisted just enough to make it fresh, exciting and genuinely unpredictable at points.

Kylo Ren - The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren

All of this combines to create something truly special the like of which I haven’t felt in a very long time. Not only is The Force Awakens an epic science fiction/fantasy, it takes every aspect of filmmaking and combines them in the best way a blockbuster picture can.

The performances are pitch perfect (though a few take time to build and coalesce), the script is the right balance of exposition, fun and thrilling suspense and the special effects are second to none.

With this, almost most importantly, the sense of the world in which all the action takes place is one that even its creator once seemed to have lost as JJ Abrams truly returns us to the Star Wars world for the first time since 1983 and, in doing so, shows up the Marvel movies, Transformers and any other of their blockbuster ilk as the pretenders that they are.

Chewbacca and Han Solo - The Force Awakens

Chewbacca and Han Solo

All this said, The Force Awakens is, of course, not quite perfect – there are a few intriguing plot holes and occasional clunky exposition – but it is as close as it likely ever could be and, as well as being an exciting picture in its own right, sets the scene for potentially even greater things to come.

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