Hannibal (2001) Review

by Eleanor Sciolistein


Sequel to Silence of Lambs and set years after Lecter’s escape from prison, this Ridley Scott directed film documents the continuing interactions between Hannibal and FBI agent Clarice Starling. The film is one of the three to star the inimitable Anthony Hopkins as Lecter but is one that almost didn’t.

Having read the initial script Hopkins was reluctant to retrace his steps as the character and was only convinced to do so after some rewrites. Jodie Foster meanwhile, was not convinced at all.

Instead ‘Clariiiicce’ is played here by a painfully miscast Julie Ann Moore, who though she struggles valiantly, is unable to pull off the delicate balance of determination and vulnerability brought to the role by Foster.

The plot sees Hannibal traced to his new home back in Europe where he has taken on a role as a lecturer in Florence. Much of the tension in the film and indeed its strongest moments are built around the interactions between Lecter and Inspector Pazzi, the dramatic irony circling around Lecter’s identity being the catalyst for some taut exchanges, peppered with dark humour.


Alongside this, is the story of millionaire Lecter victim Mason Verger, (played here under a mountain of prosthetics by the ever-reliable Garry Oldman) who has set out on his own private pursuit of vengeance against the doctor.

Unfortunately, whilst the film is passable, it is unable to live up to the promise of Silence of Lambs and indeed suffers in some respects from the audiences prior knowledge of the Lecter character, choosing rather than playing the narrative straight, to wink and nod at the audience, diminishing Lecter’s menace and allowing him to fall into the trap awaiting all movie monsters in sequels, that of over-familiarity.

The plot differs in places from the novel, deleting characters and (perhaps mercifully) changing the ending, though what we are left with is still a descent into farce.  The film’s aesthetic too, influenced by Scott’s direction, is, though opulent and lush, a departure from the gorgeously gothic gloom of Silence of The Lambs. It’s color palette, fractured flashbacks and glossy sheen making it look almost like an off-kilter superhero movie, featuring the anti-hero Lecter as its central character.

Nowhere near as bad as Hannibal Rising this passable thriller is worth a watch, particularly for fans of the gorier elements of the Lecter novels, though you get the feeling that they would have been better serving up the cheek, rather than thrusting their tongue into it.

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