The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Review

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The Silence of the Lambs

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains content may disturb
Cast:
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford
Ted Levine as Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb
Director: Jonathan Demme

Young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is assigned to help find a missing woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer (Ted Levine) who skins his victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) believes that Lecter, who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator, has the answers to their questions and can help locate the killer. However, Clarice must first gain Lecter’s confidence before the inmate will give away any information.

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The Silence of the Lambs was a massive hit upon its release, it even won the big 5 Oscars with Best Picture, Director, Best Actor and Best Actress, and that was particularly special considering it was a horror movie, with those movies in the genre not being considered ‘award friendly’. Almost 3 decades later, it is still an absolute classic and essential viewing, with its acting, writing and direction being top notch.

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One of the aspects of Silence of the Lambs that works so well is that it’s so realistic and feels like it could happen actually happen in real life. Manhunter did a realistic sort of take on a different Hannibal Lecter story, however parts of that movie felt a little bland. The Silence of the Lambs however manages to make the investigation and overall story interesting. From start to finish you’re absolutely locked into everything that’s happening.

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Jodie Foster was really great as Clarice Starling, this ranks among Foster’s best performances. It’s quite easy to like Clarice as a protagonist, and her story arc was really good. There’s a reason that the movie focusses a lot of time on her face, Foster is very expressive, and the movie definitely took advantage of that to great results. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t get a lot of screen time but his less than 15 minutes of screentime was a multi award winning performance, and for very good reason. The movie doesn’t surround him a lot but he really makes an impression. Looking at it now, he does go a little hammy at times, and it does seem a little out of place considering that the rest of the movie is really realistic, and Hopkins’s Lecter is a lot more theatrical compared to everything else. Also I was never really unnerved or scared by the performance and the character. But for the most part, Hopkins nails the role and steals every scene he’s in. Foster and Hopkins were absolutely magnetic together, their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. While a lot of people found Hopkins to be scary, the scariest performance in this movie comes from Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, the serial killer that Foster’s Clarice is hunting down. Buffalo Bill seemed like a real life serial killer, from the performance, to the character himself, everything about him is unsettling. Levine sadly doesn’t get enough praise, which he deserves especially considering all of the gruelling prep he had to do to prepare for the role. The rest of the supporting cast including Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford also do some solid work.

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Jonathan Demme’s direction was really great, and he put this movie together very well. The story and writing itself was quite realistic and the way everything looks complements this. There are many close up shots that are done from Clarice Starling’s point of view, I really noticed it particularly on my latest viewing. It really does a good job at making you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s not a grisly scene or featuring Hannibal or Buffalo Bill. The only aspects that are little lacklustre is that occasionally some set designs that aren’t special and might not be that interesting but that’s it, it works for the more grounded take of the movie anyway. The soundtrack from Howard Shore is iconic and excellent, really adding adds a haunting atmosphere to this film.

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The Silence of the Lambs is a classic and for very good reason. It’s a gripping thriller with Jonathan Demme’s great direction, an interesting story, and some great performances, mainly from Foster, Hopkins and Levine. I’ve now seen it 3 to 4 times and it’s gotten better with every viewing. If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs yet you definitely should, it’s a fantastic film.

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