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Father Rodriguez (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) gain permission to go to Japan in the 17th century to discover the fate of Father Ferreira (Liam Neesan).  Ferreira disappeared and was rumored to have publically renounced his Catholic faith in the midst of a government crackdown on Christianity in Japan. Rodriguez and Garupe go to China and secure the services of a Japanese citizen to smuggle them into Japan. Once there, they find communities of Christians who profess their faiths in secret and are always fearful of visits by the government officials (the Inquisitor). The film is the story of their ministering to the communities and the search for Ferreira. The film provides a thoughtful and nuanced examination of faith, what it means to be human and Christian, and the effects of trying to spread the Christian faith in lands that already have their own deeply embedded religious structures. The cinematography is beautiful, and Scorcese tells a fascinating story that stimulates thought around ideas of faith. This is really Garfield’s film, as he is the primary character and narrator; he seems perfectly cast in that he resembles at least some depictions of Jesus and struggles with his own limitations in faith. There is also one character in particular – the guy who smuggles them into Japan – who repeatedly shows up in a very funny way but contributes greatly to the meaning of the story. Big thumbs up for a movie that didn’t feel like its 2 hours and 40 minutes in length. I would be curious as to reactions from Christians who saw the film – I suspect viewers will have different interpretations of this movie depending on their own religious views.

About Gary Burkholder

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