Hannibal (2001) – Ridley Scott

Anthony Hopkins returns to his iconic role of the cannibalistic doctor, Hannibal Lector in the sequel to the brilliant The Silence of the Lambs. This film shows up in Ten Bad Dates with De Niro on a list of films that it is painful to like.

Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme elected not to return for the sequel. Foster was unhappy with the way Thomas Harris’ novel, the basis of the film, impacted and changed her character FBI agent Clarice Starling. Hopkins suggested Julianne Moore.

A score delivered by Hans Zimmer moves Ridley Scott’s film along, and keeps one involved, but it is no where near as entrancing as The Silence of the Lambs, though it could be argued to be on par with Manhunter, which featured Brian Cox’s interpretation of Hannibal.

Scott is a fantastic technical director, Hannibal looks great. It has a stellar cast, rounded out by Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, Gary Oldman, and the wonderful Giancarlo Giannini, but it just doesn’t hook one quite so much as Lambs.

Oldman’s character was one of Hannibal Lector’s only survivors, and he’s become fascinated by the man, giving Starling information, and offering his own bounty for the Lector’s capture and delivery. All of this alerts Hannibal to Starling’s new pursuit, as she catches the case when a shoot out goes wrong, and the FBI has to be seen to punish her.

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It looks great, it’s gritty and rough in America, stunning in Italy (in fact any location that Hopkins’ Lector is in tends to look classier and regal, as if the characters mere presence upgrades a location), and the actors are all proficient, though none come close to Hopkins’ turn as the freed Lector. And you know no one is getting close to him unless he wants them to, and he weaves a web that catches Clarice and those around her, leading to a stunning climax.

This one isn’t for everyone as it is at a remove from the environment that worked so well in the first film – Lector incarcerated and doling out information, smart and dangerous, and eventually free. This film, he is half the world away, and while charming, he doesn’t quite exude the restrained animalistic danger that seemed to emanate from him in Lambs. He does however become monstrous.

He is brilliant, still respects manners, has a predilection for human flesh, and once the film gets rolling, menaces.

It’s not a painful film to like, a lot of it is faithful to the novel, except when we get to the climax, and I tend to enjoy Scott’s work. He really is a master of the technical craft that brings a film to life, just sometimes his stories, and characters lack balance. It is a fine looking film, and one could argue a very underrated classic that deserves to be revisited.

Let’s see what else this list of painful to like titles brings me as I move further into Ten Bad Dates with De Niro.

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