“At the end of faith there is always some calamity.”

— Bangambiki Habyarimana

In his epic “Silence,” writer director Martin Scorsese returns once again to continue his obsession with guilt and redemption (“Last Temptation of Christ”), and who better than a Sicilian Roman Catholic who aspired to be a priest as a boy and has been married and divorced four times, and nearly died in 1975 with serious drug and health problems?

Of course Scorsese’s Catholic heart is evident in almost every film he’s made, and now this latest appearing after 28 years in the making and 46.5 million bucks later may well be the masterpiece he’s searched for. Here is Martin’s talk with God filtered through the suffering and searches of three Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan who were trying to bring Jesus to ancient people who were perfectly happy with Buddha.

These were tough times for the faithful; the people of ancient Japan labored under the Tokugawa shogunate, an oppressive dictatorship that reportedly executed 6,000 Christians in the most violent, horrible ways.

Though the film is very long (two hours and 41 minutes) and riddled with a rosary of ancient torture techniques richly detailed, it is none the less an important piece, gorgeously filmed in splendid color, with magnificent vistas, buoyed by the talents of three good actors and a plethora of Japanese film actors unfamiliar to American audiences.

Many Hollywoodites might logically think that with that much money, 27 years in the making, and Liam Neeson (one scene, 20 lines, much deep sighing), one might expect if not a crucifixion, at least a chariot race and some lion tossing.

We don’t get that kind of action — we get a serious close up and personal look at the miseries of missionaries in the wilderness. Scorsese, once on land, went cheap: we don’t get the grand Edo with the lovely moat, just a lot of jungle and a few bamboo huts. Shot in Taiwan, it could have been the wilds of Laurel Canyon.

We are given an explanation of what “apostatize” means: “the act by which someone renounces his faith.” That is shown here by the placing of the prisoner’s foot on a religious carving of Jesus, spitting on a cross, trash talking the Pppe (an altar boy’s joke).

Scorsese then pulls us along on the torturous search for Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) by two devout Jesuit priests (“Girls” actor Adam Driver and “Spiderman’s” Andrew Garfield.) The two priests, painfully gaunt and garbed in basic Jesuit black wool, are smuggled into a Japan (Taiwan) like spiritual saboteurs. After hide and seek with furtive Christians in the bush and horsed samurais, they are caught and taken to a holding cell where Christians are brutally oppressed and tortured in excruciating detail. It’s here where they spend the rest of their lives searching for and ultimately finding Liam.

No contest: It is Andrew Garfield’s movie; his intensity is truly mesmerizing and everyone else, but for Adam Driver, who puts in his day’s work, shrinks in his presence.

There is no denying the cinematic gifts of the great Scorsese. Film schools will run this over and over and indeed there is much here to admire. Martin’s long time sidekick Jay Cocks co-wrote the script based on Shusaku Endo’s novel, and helped raise the money.

Rodrigo Prieto’s camera captured it all and of course there is no mistaking the artistry of three-time Oscar winner editor Thelma Schoonmaker (“Goodfellas” “The Departed” “Raging Bull,” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.”) She puts it all together.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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