This is the film that people universally associate with Sir Anthony Hopkins, as Hannibal-the-Cannibal, Dr Lecter. Released in 1991, Hopkins achieved his first ever Oscar for Best Actor, at the age of 54. The movie itself scooped up Oscar awards in all five categories and attained worldwide box office success, propelling Anthony Hopkins to legendary status and the ultimate fulfillment of his boyhood dream to be a Hollywood star.
The best-selling novel by Thomas Harris of the same name was the inspiration for this movie, directed by Jonathan Demme. Hopkins plays the monster psychopathic serial killer Dr Hannibal Lecter who is a lifer interned in a high security Baltimore jail for his heinous crimes; carving up nine people, cooking and eating his favourite organs. Dr Lecter, prides himself on having once eaten the liver of a census taker with some fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti. Formerly an eminent psychiatrist, Dr Lecter is an intelligent, refined character, exuding wit, charm and supreme control, making his spasms of violence even more shocking to the viewer.
A shocking well-crafted, modern suspense thriller where Hopkins gives a powerful performance, opposite an equally superb Jodie Foster. It is a dark film with the ominous background music helping to build the element of suspense gradually, difficult to watch at times with its' disturbing scenes, yet impossible to turn off and an ending that leaves many doors open. A modern classic. It is hard to believe Hopkins only has a total of 16 minutes film time in this movie but that is what Hopkins is so skilled at, with him, less is definitely more.
Jodie Foster plays the FBI fledgling agent, Clarice Starling, who is assigned to a case to track down another dangerous serial killer who has kidnapped Catherine, the daughter of US Senator Ruth Martin. Agent Starling is keen to prove her worth to boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) and believing that Dr Lecter holds the clue to catch the killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), on the basis that 'it takes one to know one', she sets out on a journey to try and gain Hannibal's trust, visiting him in the asylum.
A dangerous interchange and relationship develops between Dr Lecter and Clarice, one of mentor-student, where Lecter always has the upper hand ironically, despite being behind bars. Mind games between the two are central to the film, with the attractive Clarice with her slow southern drawl embodying innocence and vulnerability along with her dogged determination and ambition to succeed in her male dominated professional life. Hopkins portrayal of the infamous Dr Lecter is most entertaining, he manages most convincingly to retain Lecter's dignity in the solitary, spartan prison cell where he is confined for his horrific crimes.
His 'matter-of-fact' air, witty sarcasm and charismatic charm enthralls as he slowly manipulates the young FBI cadet, always keeping one step ahead of her, delving deep into her psyche. Hopkins once said 'I am able to play monsters well. I understand monsters. I understand madmen'. Hopkins talks in riddles to the young FBI agent, riddles that result in positive leads for Starling. Lecter however, ensures Starling gets him the transfer he wants to new and better quarters with more freedom.
Buffalo Bill, the serial killer sought by agent Starling. Buffalo Bill is a sexual deviant who skins his female victims. Dr Lecter was a former doctor of this disturbing character. There is one particular scene where you are guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat rooting for agent Clarice Starling as she is pursued by Buffalo Bill.
This movie is the first of the trilogy where Hopkins plays Dr Lecter, the other two being 'Hannibal' (2001) and 'Red Dragon' (2002), although 'Red Dragon' was actually the first of the three books written by Thomas Harris in 1981 and the sequel being 'Silence of the Lambs' published in 1988 and then 'Hannibal' in 1999. The book 'Hannibal Rising' written again by Harris in 2005 was also made into a film, about the formative years of Dr Hannibal Lecter.