Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: Silenced (aka The Crucible) (2011)

Silenced (aka The Crucible) (Review)
Hwang Dong-hyuk/Gong Yoo/2011
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"It's not a feel-good film, but it's a good film to make you feel..."

Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo) is hired as the new art teacher for Benevolence Academy, a school for hearing-impaired children in the city of Mujin -- the city of fog. Immediately, In-ho notices some of the children acting oddly...

Silenced continues as In-ho finds the horrible truth behind the children's untrusting and frightened behaviors -- they have been physically and sexually abused by the principal and teachers at the school. The first half of the film basically unravels this discovery as the children tell their stories through sign language while In-ho narrates. He'll also have the help of Seo Yoo-jin (Jung Yoo-mi), a human rights activist. The second half follows the tense trial of the accused, and what lengths they'll go to to escape conviction. The ending of the film is heartbreaking, mind-shattering, infuriating, frustrating... it evokes so many feelings; there is a shred of hope, though, and it's well appreciated.

Silenced is an intense drama based on real events. The story is very disturbing and even a bit graphic, yet very effective. The scenes of abuse are brutal and difficult to endure, but they serve a purpose -- the beatings and sexual assaults are genuinely horrifying, though, so be prepared. Honestly, I'm surprised some of these scenes of abuse even made it on to the film, they're just so realistic, almost unbearable. But, again, they serve a purpose and evoke incredible emotions. Ultimately, it's very informative as a film based on real life.

Also, as a film, it works very well off its intense atmosphere, suspenseful sequences, and effective drama. The villains, and they truly are villains, are disgusting. I hated these characters, and the cast that played them, because they played them so well. I've never been so infuriated with an antagonist like I have with this set. The children present their stories without a spoken word, but you can see the emotion in their facial expressions and subtle body movements -- a superb accomplishment. Silenced moves at a brisk pace and has great momentum -- it's always moving -- and has little filler as every scene serves a purpose.

Gong Yoo is fantastic as In-ho; his performance is genuine from beginning to end, and portrays his character with great emotion. Jung Yoo-mi is also superb, although a bit of a trope, she adds much life to her character and is very charismatic. The rest of the cast is also superb; the children are very impressive, probably the best child cast I've ever seen. The music is superb in leading emotions and building atmosphere -- it gave off a "Memories of Murder" vibe, which I enjoyed. The film is shot beautifully and the camerawork is slick, despite the horrendous subject. Hwang Dong-hyuk's direction is flawless, really delivering a consistent film with few technical flaws.

Overall, Silenced is an incredibly effective drama, a heartbreaking story that must be told and heard. It's not a feel-good film, but it's a good film to make you feel; if you're not comfortable or familiar with genuinely sad stories, not like the fabricated sadness you'd see in a Twilight or other teen drama film, then this film will likely devastate you -- and it's a feeling you should experience at least once in your life. Don't miss this film.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, including the physical and sexual abuse of children, and brief nudity.

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