The first Europeans to Japan came from Portugal and landed on Kyushu in Western Japan in 1542, bringing both gunpowder and Christianity along with them. The Japanese lords on Kyushu welcomed these new visitors for the weapons they brought with them and tolerated the Jesuit missionaries that came together as part of the package. The missionaries were eventually successful in converting considerable numbers of people in Western Japan, including members of the ruling class. Christianity could be practiced openly, however, in 1587, in an era of European colonization and Christianization of the nearby Philippines, Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued an edict banning missionaries from the country due to the religion's growing power, intolerant behavior towards Shinto and Buddhism, and involvement in the sale of Japanese people as slaves overseas. In 1597, Hideyoshi proclaimed a more serious banning edict and executed 26 Christians in Nagasaki as a warning. Intending to bring Japan under complete control, the succeeding Tokugawa Shogunate further hardened the country's anti-Christian stance, accusing the religion of obstructing the authorities, antisocial behavior, and intolerance towards the established religions. After a rebellion on the Shimabara Peninsula that involved many Christians in the late 1630s, thousands of rebels were executed and a full ban on Christianity became strictly enforced. Only small pockets of Christians, known as the "Hidden Christians", continued practicing their religion in secret1.
Following two Jesuit priests in 1635 Portugal – Father Rodriguez (Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver - Paterson) – who venture into hostile Japanese country in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson - Taken). Rather than believe the rumors that Ferreira has abandoned his Christian faith and taken a Japanese wife, the two priests take the journey to find out for themselves. While holding trying to hold on to the hope that Ferreira has not apostatizes2, the story soon becomes an odyssey into the despair found when religious beliefs clash. For the Hidden Christians, the arrival of Rodriguez and Garupe is confirmation of their beliefs and though there are language barriers, it seems that God is always present.
Overall, Silence is in no way an action-packed adventure like Hacksaw Ridge or Free State of Jones but rather it is an exploration of morals, history, religion, and so much more. It is a shocking and sometimes morbid story, one that viewers will find to be focusing and contemplative as it, in turn, rewards the audience for its patience. The ultimate message is not about being pro-Christian or anti-Christian but rather the film asks the question: “Despite living in such a brutal era with obsolete customs, is there still hope to be found?” The final shot before the credits begin to role answers that question but you’ll have to see it for yourself to find out.