“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti… FshtFshtFshtFsht.”
The main character of the film is young FBI agent-in-training, Clarice Starling, portrayed by Jodie Foster, and her task is to visit infamous cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins. From her point of view, the meeting is purely academic but Lecter soon works out the true nature of the meaning- the FBI investigation into serial killer Buffalo Bill, played by Ted Levine.
This movie is completely terrifying and brilliant, both emotionally and psychologically. Hopkins’s portrayal of Lecter is superb, almost certainly his finest work and one of the best performances in all cinema. He is menacing, devious and above all else, genius. His machinations and plots are incredible and you truly believe in the power of this character. The portrayal is aided by the shot choices of the director, Jonathan Demme. Lecter is often shot looking directly down the camera, staring into your soul from within his prison cell. At the same time, Foster may have been completely overwhelmed by the more experienced actor but she holds her own in what may seem like a lesser performance but it is just as captivating. She plays the role of the young woman, surrounded by the sexism of the system, in a very convincing manner. And as for Ted Levine… I’m never going to look at skin cream in the same way again.
The film is shocking and never shies away from this, except in a few carefully chosen moments that really show you how Clarice is in a little over her head. The script is excellent and everyone is incredibly believable and, importantly for a story containing a murder mystery, the discoveries and revelations that lead the story to its conclusion are all incredibly plausible. Finite details and facts that convincingly lead Clarice on her fateful journey.
All the little pieces of this film add up to an almost perfect whole. You could make a case for some films since, but there is good reason for this being the last to win The Big Five at the Oscars (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay). The score has some wonderful moments too, always knowing exactly when to raise the tension. And for a film of this length, the pace is always perfect, never leaving you wanting.
A captivating thriller with incredible performances. Now excuse me, I’m having an old friend for dinner. Get watching!