Hannibal [2001]

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 131 minutes

Yes, he's back, and he's still hungry. Ten years after The Silence of the Lambs, Dr. Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, reprising his Oscar-winning role) is living the good life in Italy, studying art and sipping espresso. FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, replacing Jodie Foster), on the other hand, hasn't had it so good--an outsider from the start, she's now a quiet, moody loner who doesn't play bureaucratic games and suffers for it. 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 and A. Little does Clarice realize that the hideously deformed Verger--who, upon suggestion from Dr. Lecter, peeled off his own face--is using her as bait to lure Dr. Lecter out of hiding, quite certain he'll capture the good doctor. Taking the basic plot contraptions from Thomas 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 gives the film a sleek, almost European look that lets you know that, unlike the first film (which was about the quintessentially American Clarice), this movie is all Hannibal. Does it work? Yes--but only up to a point. Scott adeptly sets up an atmosphere of foreboding, but it's all buildup for anticlimax, as Verger's plot for abducting Hannibal (and feeding him to man-eating wild boars) doesn't really deliver the requisite visceral thrills, and the much-ballyhooed climatic dinner sequence between Clarice, Dr. Lecter, and a third unlucky guest 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. --Mark Englehart

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Hannibal Lecter:
Dear Clarice, I have followed with enthusiasm the course of your disgrace and public shaming. My own never bothered me except for the inconvenience of being incarcerated, but you may lack perspective. In our discussions down in the dungeon it was apparent to me that your father, the dead night watchman, figures largely in your value system. I think your success in putting an end to Jame Gumb's career as a couturier pleased you most because you could imagine your father being pleased. But now, alas, you're in bad odour with the FBI. Do you imagine your daddy being shamed by your disgrace? Do you see him in his plain pine box crushed by your failure; a sorry, petty end of a promising career? What is worst about this humiliation Clarice? Is it how your failure will reflect on your mommy and daddy? Is your worst fear that people will now and forever believe they were indeed just good old trailer camp tornado bait white trash and that perhaps you are too? By the way I couldn't help noticing on the FBI's rather dull public website that I have been hoisted from the Bureau's archives of the common criminal and elevated to the more prestigious 10 Most Wanted list. Is this coincidence, or are you back on the case? If so, goody goody, cause I need to come out of retirement and return to public life. I imagine you sitting in a dark basement room bent over papers and computer screens. Is that accurate? Please tell me truly, Special Agent Starling. Regards, your old pal Hannibal Lecter, M.D. P.S. Clearly this new assignment is not your choice rather I suppose it is a part of the bargain but you accepted it Clarice. Your job is to craft my doom. So I am not sure how well I should wish you but I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun. Tata, H.

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