The Silence of the Lambs Reviews
Despite Hannibal being a subject that has been recycled over and over again, where Silence of the Lambs succeeds is that it is genuinely thrilling from start to finish. Anthony Hopkins' performance as Dr. Lecter. despite being limited in terms of screen time, was bone chilling. And Jodie Forster shines in the spotlight as Clarice Starling because of how likable she is. You can't help but root for her. She's the rookie FBI agent in training that is feisty and eager to make a name for herself in a male-dominated field that looked down on women. (Sidebar: Does anyone else read the name "Clarice" in the same creepy way that Dr. Lecter says it?)
Outside of the Oscar-winning duo and their excellent chemistry together, we have the true intriguing villain of the film "Buffalo Bill" played by Ted Levine. What makes him so interesting is the fact that he is based on 3 real-life serial killers: Ted Bundy, Gary Heidnik, and Ed Gein which the attributes of luring women into the car via pretending to need help, trapping women in a pit within their basement, and of course using human skin as decorations all came from. Absolutely sickening to think that real people did these sorts of things.
And lastly, we have Scott Glenn's Jack Crawford, the fictional Agent-in-Charge of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. Unlike in this film's successor, Hannibal, Crawford, while he is hard on Clarice, is not a sexist pig like Clarice's superiors are in that. He even took the time to ensure that Clarice was ok with him casting her aside so he could talk with the police officer on his own to prevent any prejudices from breaking out. Of course, Clarice wasn't necessarily happy about with the way he went about it.
Crawford: "Starling, when I told that sheriff we shouldn't talk in front of a woman, that really burned you, didn't it? It was just smoke, Starling. I had to get rid of him. "
Starling: "It matters, Mr. Crawford. Cops look at you to see how to act. It matters."
Crawford: "Point taken."
Clarice and Crawford's relationship was a fun one to watch as he became more and more impressed with her abilities. At first, I was kind of worried that Dr. Lecter was onto something when he suggested to Clarice that perhaps "Jack Crawford wants you, sexually." as a reason for him helping her with her career despite her "grilling him pretty hard' on the Bureau's civil rights records during the Hoover years. (Not to get political, but I'm getting political. Which she had every right to.) But from the beginning when Crawford told Clarice that he remembered her from that seminar and that he gave her an "A" and she corrected him saying it was an "A-minus". you could tell that he liked her because of her bravado and wits. And that handshake mixed with the "Your father would have been proud today." says it all about the admiration he had grown for her and the bright future that she had ahead of her.
To summarize, Silence of the Lambs is a classic film that's suspense is heightened by its overly dramatic film score. (Howard Shore is a wizard! Maybe not Gandalf the White levels, but definitely the Grey!) My only complaint is the same complaint I have for all three films in the Hannibal series: the detective that stupidly tries to rush into a situation without backup. While that's something that happens in just about every crime film known to man, it's especially bad in this film because of how much of a dumbass you have to be to do what Clarice does here. Sure I'll enter the creepy dark torture/murder dungeon all by myself without letting anyone else know that I'm there. I got a real kick out of Clarice when she says to Catherine, "FBI! You're safe!" (Sounds more like "shafe" with her weird accent) Like really?! You're shaking more than a heroine addict that needs their fix and you have the audacity to claim that you're safe? But with that being said, the night-vision goggles part is awesome. "Buffalo Bill" is one creepy dude. Great movie!
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Unfortunately, it's just not remotely subtle enough. Yes tension and theme should be played out delicately in a film like this, but here - perhaps unsurprisingly - Jonathan Demme slaps it all around your face with constant levels of tension and tone that are only increased from eleven to twelve as the film proceeds. This means some of the more sensitive and frightening aspects of many pschological thrillers are gone in place of a more hammered-home approach that leaves it feeling overlong and thematically uninteresting.
VERDICT: A thriller that exceeds in terms of characterisation, but fails when it comes to building overall tension.
#Content: Script 5 | Acting 5 | Cinematography 5 | Film Editing 5
#Visual: Costume Design 3 | Makeup & Hairstyling 4 | Scenic Design 5 | Lighting 5 | Visual Effects 3
#Sound: Score & Soundtracks 5 | Sound Editing & Mixing 5
#Overall (1~10): 9
A serial killer who goes by the name of "Buffalo Bill" kidnaps and kills women to skin them and make them into coats. An F.B.I. cadet named Clarice Starling has to confide in a cannibalistic serial killer locked up in prison to help her locate him before he kills someone who he recently captured, Catherine Martin.
When the viewer is first introduced to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Starling is walking down an ominous hallway. She walks past other criminals locked up. The first few she walk by behave as you would expect. One is smiling and saying "Hi" to her, and the last one is jumping up at the prison bars. When she gets to the end of the hall, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is standing up and facing her with a blank expression on his face. He is still and motionless. He says "Good morning" to her calmly. He seems harmless. As Starling continues to talk to him, the viewer has a minor sense of relief for what the film could've thrown at us, but Hopkins' voice gives the viewer a feeling of deception which makes that sense of relief vanish. This is the first time we're introduced to him, and Lecter is able to unnerve the viewer so much by conveying so little. The great scripting and great acting made him quite a memorable character.
Seeing his calmer moments onscreen are very memorable. However, it leaves you wondering what he's capable of. Eventually, about 2/3 of the way into the film, the viewer gets to see Lecter pop in one of the most horrifying and memorable horror movie scenes of all time. The scene is so unexpected, and the sheer creativity of it is out-and-out disgusting to even think about. Watching the film a second time, it's frightening to find out what could've happened to Clarice Starling if their calm meetings had played out differently. However, it becomes very apparent that he wouldn't harm her as he grows to value her company. He never threatens her, and he always acts helpful and nice to her. Also, after he finds out how they both share similar childhood wounds, the viewer loses suspicion that he'll do something bad to her. Also, it took me a little while to pinpoint how that was a very effective piece of dialogue which got me to actualy identify with Hannibal Lecter.
It's a great accomplishment that the film gets us to like Hannibal Lecter. The reason is because he helps Starling locate Buffalo Bill which would also save Catherin Martin from him in the process, and he proves to be very helpful to her throughout the film. Also, the audience senses that he won't hurt her. On top of that, Hopkins performance brings wit and style to the character. The character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter succeeds on so many different levels.
There are several scenes from the film which work very well at terrifying the viewer. The scene when "Buffalo Bill" kidnaps Catherine Martin is a believable technique which seems like it would work in real life. It shows how after you get too close to "Buffalo Bill" for too long, you would reach a point of no return, and by the time you realize that something bad is going to happen, it would already be too late.
One of the most memorable kill scenes from horror movies happens near the final 1/3 of the film. I won't spoil it, but it works very well. Earlier in the film, it hinted that something was up after he stole a character's pen. Once you realize what's going to happen, you're left waiting for Lecter to pop as you've waited to see for a long time. The scene is very gory, and the aftermath of it is even more sickening. When you think that the scene's finally over, the film pulls the rug out from under you, and it shows you a creative, yet highly appalling image which likely won't leave your head anytime soon.
The scene at the end in Buffalo Bill's was an amazing idea for a climax. It is so suspenseful, and as soon as it starts, you have minimal hope that it will turn out good. Then, director Jonathan Demme adds in one final aspect into the movie to up the tension so high that it's one of the most suspenseful climax's ever for a film. He makes it seem clear that Starling won't go home unless she either gets a miracle or gets badly injured in the process. This scene is terrifying, because of the film's clever manipulation of the visuals and the fact that we've come to really like Starling, and we don't want anything to happen to her.
In conclusion, this is definitely a masterpiece, and it's one of the best horror films of all time. Anthony Hopkins' performance was perfect, and this movie should be looked at and studied off of for years to come. Other horror movie directors should study off of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and many actors should definitely try to do what he did. After the viewer witnesses all of the pros that this movie has to offer, it leaves you a brilliant closing scene which lets you go off on a high note. Anyways, I do wish that I could talk about this film longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner.