Anytime Martin Scorsese steps into the ring as director with a new movie, odd are in favor of that film becoming an awards season contender, regardless of its genre. For related reasons, movie buffs have been keeping a close eye on the director’s’ next release: Silence, an adaptation of Shûsaku Endô’s acclaimed 1966 novel and a passion project for Scorsese, who has been wanting to adapt the book for the big screen since at least the early 1990s. Until now though, distributor Paramount Pictures had held off on revealing a release date for the film, and some have speculated that the studio was holding off in order to wait and see if the movie could be shortened from its reported 3 hours + running time.
Silence tells the story of two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries – played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) – traveling through 17th century Japan in search of their master (Liam Neeson), aware that they are treading on dangerous ground; what with the Japanese government seeking to rid the country of any and all western influences, at the time. Other cast members in Silence include Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones), Tadanobu Asano (Thor) and Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Ichi the Killer), among other well-experienced European and Japanese character actors alike.
Paramount has now announced a December 23rd, 2016 limited U.S. theatrical release date for Silence, with plans to expand the film into wide release at some as-yet unspecified date in January 2017. Director Juan Antonio Bayona’s A Monster Calls movie will also begin its Oscar-qualifying theatrical run on that day in December (before it too goes wide in January), after having earned an enthusiastic reception from the critics who caught the children’s novel adaptation at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
The addition of Silence makes the fast-approaching end of year awards season contender rush all the more enticing. Silence is not only an intriguing literary adaptation that features Scorsese at the helm, it’s also a story that the director is clearly invested in doing justice by on the big screen, between the sheer amount of time he’s spent trying to make it and the talent cast and crew he has assembled for it. Thematically, Silence seems to harken back to the director’s films dealing more overtly with religious issues and concerns (in the vein of The Last Temptation of Christ, Kundun and, to a lesser degree, Gangs of New York) than his most recent directorial efforts. Silence reads as being all the more awards-season friendly a title, for related reasons.
Admittedly, the flip-side to that coin is that Silence doesn’t read as being as commercially viable as some of Scorsese’s more recent films; something that might have made Paramount more hesitant to sign off on the 3-hour cut of the movie than the studio was when it gave the go-ahead to an equally massive cut of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, a few years ago. Then again, Silence “only” cost $51 million to make, so it’s not really a risky box office bet (regardless of its theatrical cut’s running time) – and if the movie is as well-received as Paramount is undoubtedly expecting/wanting it to be, then Silence could follow in the footsteps of something like The Revenant and become the rare arthouse offering that’s also a mainstream box office hit.
Either way, Silence is still a welcome addition to the 2016 awards season slate. With Scorsese’s latest joining an Oscar-contending roster that includes such films as A Monster Calls, Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s buzzed-about musical La La Land, Denzel Washington’s Fences, and the Michael Keaton-headlined biopic The Founder, there’s a lot to look forward to as studios push their most prestigious titles into position in the hopes of being dubbed “the best” of 2016.
Silence begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on December 23rd, 2016. It goes into wide release sometime in January 2017.