Anthony's Film Review
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
A top-notch crime thriller, made especially intriguing with two fine actors...
The Silence of the Lambs, adapted from the novel by Thomas Harris, is a movie that I would consider to be a cinematic crime thriller fan's dream come true. All the core elements of the genre are done masterfully here, namely a strong protagonist, a creepy antagonist (or, in this case, two creepy antagonists), an investigation that unravels the mystery, and even a clever move or two by the villain to really frustrate the pursuers. The result is a film that is undeniably gripping and frightening. But while this crime thriller has a solid plot like any great thriller, what makes it truly stand out are the outstanding performances of its two principal cast members: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Foster plays an FBI agent in training named Clarice Starling. While doing her usual physical drills and class studies at the FBI training academy, she is assigned to a rather profound case. A serial killer named Buffalo Bill remains on the loose, kidnapping and killing plus-size women while cutting off sections of their skin. Given that it takes one to know one, various killers currently imprisoned have been interviewed to understand Buffalo Bill's mindset. But one killer has yet to open up: a cannibalistic psychiatrist named Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Hopkins. Starling is asked to interview Lecter in hopes of having leads for catching Buffalo Bill.
The first scene with Starling and Lecter is so engrossing that it's worth looking at it very closely. Starling enters the mental asylum where Lecter is kept under constant watch in a cell located in the facility's lower level. There is definitely a sense of both fear and wonder as Starling approaches Lecter's cell. She is literally in a dungeon, a dark place where the worst of mankind are locked up to never see the light of day. The moment Lecter first appears on screen, he already sends a chill down our spines. This is someone whose wide-eyed stare, wicked smile, and almost monotonous speech pattern can scare even the most seasoned FBI agent. Obviously, this scene is going to get very good.
Starling is calm at first when she begins her interview. But that is quickly cut short. You see, Lecter is also a manipulative man who does not hesitate to play mind games with anyone standing on the other side of the glass barrier that keeps him imprisoned. His creepy demeanor makes it easy for him to ask questions to the interrogator, not the other way around. Starling, who is still an emotionally sensitive rookie, struggles to focus on her objective of getting the info she needs from Lecter. But dealing with Lecter's psychological manipulation is no easy task, especially as going with it might be the only way to gain Lecter's trust and, therefore, understand the mindset of Buffalo Bill.
Basically, this scene and all other scenes with Starling and Lecter are THE reason to watch this movie. If Hannibal Lecter is not the most frightening fictional killer ever seen on film, he is no doubt one of the most frightening. For actor Anthony Hopkins, his role as Hannibal Lecter in this movie is a definite highlight in his career, something that he should be very proud of. As for Clarice Sterling, she might appear weak in the beginning, but over time, she slowly develops a thick skin. Jodie Foster can certainly look back on this role as a significant achievement. Overall, the chemistry of tension between these two characters is intense, so much that I wouldn't mind watching a movie that featured only these two characters talking.
Interestingly, the Starling-Lecter scenes only occupy a couple of minutes out of this two-hour movie. The question that remains is whether the other scenes in The Silence of the Lambs are as captivating. The answer is yes. They are just as frightening and intense. There are scenes that involve Buffalo Bill abducting another victim, a coroner examination of a corpse, and an incredibly shocking plot by Lecter that stuns an entire police force. As much as I loved the dialogue between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, I found myself on the edge of my seat just as much with these other scenes. Therefore, there was not a dull moment anywhere in this film.
With all of this, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best crime thriller movies I've ever seen. Like I said above, this is one that fans of the genre will surely love.
For more information about The Silence of the Lambs, visit the Internet Movie Database.