Seventeenth-century feudal Japan wasn’t exactly fertile ground for sowing the seeds of Christianity. For the Jesuit priests who went there to bring the word of God and their faithful converts, they were met with hostility, unspeakable cruelty, and death. Christ was the ultimate living example of persecution and sufferance, and the Jesuits could find strength and perseverance in that. But even Christ had his moment of doubt, and every person has his breaking point. And the Japanese were ruthlessly methodical in their efforts.

One priest in particular, Father Sabastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), is singled out for example. He’s thrown into a cage and forced to watch his friends tortured and executed. If he renounces his faith and apostatizes, his torment will end. “God surely heard their prayers before they died.” he laments. “But did He hear their screams?” For all their prayers and pleadings for grace, all that follows is Silence, leaving them to contemplate the unthinkable: Has God forsaken us? Scorsese seems to be channeling the spirit of Akira Kurosawa as he unfolds this harrowing story while still making it distinctly his own. All elements of pretentious and artsy filmmaking are stripped away in favor of a bare-bones approach, simple, truthful and unflinching.

Silence garnered only one Oscar nomination for its cinematography. It’s a hauntingly gorgeous picture that doesn’t overly rely on digital fakery or green-screen backdrops. There is tremendous clarity and detail. Textures and colors, though subdued, are still vividly sharp, and there’s seamless gradation in scenes of light surrounded by darkness.

The DTS-HD 5.1 sound mix is one of the quietest I’ve ever heard, and that’s no admonishment. One of its most striking features is its nearly complete absence of cinematic score. If there’s any music at all, it’s layered in so unassumingly that you scarcely notice it or it functions purely incidentally as part of the scene. Even the closing credits are played over ambient sounds of nature: birds, crickets, and wind. This is strictly a dialogue-driven drama from start to finish, and the center-channel track holds court firmly, while the crashing waves, whistling wind, and sounds of nature dash in from all directions, creating a compellingly immersive environment.

A 25-minute featurette called “Martin Scorsese’s Journey Into Silence” is the only bonus content offered. The exclusion of other perks is disappointing, but then, this isn’t the type of film that would merit a gag reel. Digital Copy included.

Silence is truly golden. Don’t miss it

Studio: Paramount, 2016
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 161 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson