The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Reviewed on 2012 March 1
I think this is one of the more frightening movies out there, because this isn’t CGI or a rubber monster or some urban legend. You can read about this sort of stuff in the DSM-IV. In fact when this movie came out and someone (a film critic?) asked an FBI agent if there ever was a monster like a Buffalo Bill, the agent said “yeah, Ed Gein.” That’s another story that I don’t want to get into now; this was disturbing enough.
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an a-list FBI trainee, intelligent and pretty, and her demeanor says she views the latter trait as an incidental gift. It’s another interesting layer to a complex character — a petite agent who wants to prove herself in a tough field. FBI Agent and mentor Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) sees something in Clarice, and decides to test her mettle.
Lucky Clarice, she gets thrown into the deep end. For one of her first tasks, her perspective employer wants her to interview a former psychiatrist turned brutal murderer: Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), known as Hannibal the Cannibal. Hannibal is locked away in a psychiatric prison that even a genius like he can’t escape, and crazy as he is, they need his help. A killer known as Buffalo Bill is killing and butchering young women, and they need the warped Lecter to help them understand and catch this monster.
All the acting was good in this thing, and it got the Best Picture Oscar® in 1991. Scary movies almost never get any critical success, but this was something unique. Anthony Hopkins is utterly perfect as the crazy, brutal Hannibal, brilliant, urbane and scary as hell at the same time. “Fava beans and chianti” became a punch line, but it’s not funny at all when Hopkins does it, nor was it meant to be. Nor does the movie seem to show any age, more than two decades later. Given the subject matter, Jonathan Demme kept it pretty classy, too. One of the more memorable scenes is early in the movie, when Starling looks at a photograph of Lecter’s work, sinister music playing. We don’t see the picture, but her face tells us all we need to know.
Four chocolate morsels.