Based on Thomas Harris's novel, Jonathan Demme's terrifying Silence of the Lambs
really contains only a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman. Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI, agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) approaches Lecter, requesting his insights into the identity and methods of a serial killer named Buffalo Bill. In exchange, Lecter demands the right to penetrate Starling's most painful memories, creating a bizarre but palpable intimacy that liberates them both under separate but equally horrific circumstances. The Silence of the Lambs
won 1992 Oscars®
for best picture, actor, actress, director, and adapted screenplay.
Ten years later in Hannibal, Dr. Lecter (Hopkins) is living the good life in Italy, studying art and sipping espresso. FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, replacing Foster), on the other hand, is now a quiet, moody loner. A botched drug raid results in her demotion--and a request from Lecter's only living victim, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, uncredited), for a little Q&A. Little does Starling realize that the hideously deformed Verger is using her as bait to lure Dr. Lecter out of hiding. Taking the basic plot contraptions from Harris's baroque novel, Hannibal is so stylistically different from its predecessor that it forces you to take it on its own terms. Director Ridley Scott adeptly sets up an atmosphere of foreboding, but it's all buildup for anticlimax, as Verger's plot for abducting Dr. Lecter doesn't really deliver the requisite visceral thrills, and the much-ballyhooed climatic dinner sequence wobbles between parody and horror. Hopkins and Moore are both first-rate, but the film contrives to keep them as far apart as possible, when what made Silence so amazing was their interaction. When they do connect it's quite thrilling, but it's unfortunately too little too late.