I have to commend Michael Mann for making a dark and creepy atmosphere throughout Manhunter. He set a tone for the film that fit the subject matter, and kept me on edge. I never knew how violent things would get, and often suspected that the killer could show up at any time. The pace of the film is definitely slow, which is not bad because they allow the tension to build naturally, but there were a few scenes where I was ready to move on because they were dragging out longer than necessary. The thing that threw me off the most while watching was a sequence where there was a perceived threat on one person and it switched to the murder of a different person, but I didn?t see this dramatic moment become a big plot point in the film, it was almost like the dead guy was forgotten by the next scene. I felt like I missed some lines of dialogue or an entire follow-up scene.
William Petersen was pretty good as the criminal profiler called in to advise on the case. While he wasn?t great in the scenes where he?s talking through the killer?s thoughts, those were a bit melodramatic so I don?t know how anyone would make that work perfectly. Brian Cox was actually pretty great as Hannibal, which surprised me. He plays a slightly more controlled version of the character, but that worked for me. My favorite part of Manhunter are those moments when the case hit some big breakthroughs. I like watching as the characters connect the dots, and they draw closer to figuring out whodunnit. And the drama of trying to stop the killer before he strikes again gets my heart pumping. There?s a lot to like in this film and I can?t help thinking, in a world where The Silence of the Lambs didn?t exist, I would totally love Manhunter. Instead, while I was entertained, I?m not sure this one will stick with me as well as the modern classic that came 5 years later.