So I've been putting off watching number 29 on the top 1000 films of all time, until I had finished the novel. Now that I have finished it, I thought it was about time that I watched the Silence of the Lambs.
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an FBI agent in training. However, her training is cut short when Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) recruits her to track down the serial killer called Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb (Ted Levine.) To aid her investigation, Starling turns to Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a brilliant, but psychotic psychiatrist and serial killer.
Just as he is in the last film, Anthony Hopkins is magnificent in this installment. From his first appearance to every line of dialogue, he is utterly sinister. I remember when Clarice Starling is walking through the prison to interrogate him and all of the other prisoners are going crazy, but Hannibal Lecter is standing perfectly still in anticipation. This was so scary but also very engaging. In arguably the film's most iconic scene, Lecter presses Starling for information about her past. In return, he will aid her investigation of Buffalo Bill. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins were both captivating in this sequence. The scene was shot well with an extreme close-up of Anthony Hopkin's eyes, which seemed to reach through the camera lens and draw the viewer in. I think Anthony Hopkins was a great choice for Hannibal Lecter. He effortlessly conveys all of the sophistication, finesse and culture of the character.
Anthony Hopkins was so great in his role that I think he stole the show from Buffalo Bill who is the true antagonist of the film, although this can be disputed. This notwithstanding, Ted Levine is terrifying as Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill is a transvestite who after being rejected for sexual reassignment surgery decides to take matters into his own hands. He kidnaps women to skin them and essentially create a human suit to wear. Ted Levine brings this frightening character to life. In the film's scariest scene, Buffalo Bill's latest would-be victim notices a human nail embedded in the walls of her vcell. She begins screaming in terror and Buffalo Bill cruelly mocks her. I found this sequence particularly scary and I was surprised I could be so scared by something as little as a fingernail.
The Silence of the Lambs was criticised for being trans and homophobic. It was criticised as unfairly portraying transsexxuals as psychotic serial killers. I think the novel would have been criticised for the same reasons, if it wasn't for a passage addressing this very issue. When Jack Crawford realises the suspect is a transvestite he approaches the head of a sexual reassignment clinic to ask for a list of patient names. The head staunchly refuses arguing that if people found out that a transgender person is a serial killer, it would destroy all of the good work he has done in showing that transsexuals are nothing to be afraid of would be destroyed. I really think that film should have included this scene to at least avoid accusations of transphobia.
I was also very disappointed with Scott Glenn who played Jack Crawford. Compared to Harvey Keitel in Red Dragon or Laurence Fishburne in NBC's Hannibal, he lacked the ruthless forcefullness that I would expect from a Behaviour Science Unit Chief.
These criticisms aside I would give the film a rating of awesome, It was tense, horrific and included some masterful performances by Hopkins and Foster. I just don't think that Scott Glenn's Jack Crawford will become a Great Dictator any time soon.