Twitter Plot Summary: Rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling interviews serial killer Hannibal Lecter hoping he can help her catch another killer.
Five Point Summary:
1. She’s tiny. Really tiny.
2. Did he just flick… yeah, he did. Ugh.
3. A head in a jar.
4. A cunning escape from his cell. Well done that man.
5. Pitch black basement.
It’s a brave script (or even a novel) that sets up an antagonist who isn’t really the main villain of the piece. So it is with The Silence of the Lambs, as Jodie Foster’s rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling uses the talents of serial killer Hannibal Lecter – a superbly creepy performance from Anthony Hopkins – to track down and stop another serial killer who is kidnapping women and skinning them, for reasons that will soon become apparent. Lecter isn’t to be trusted of course, and before long he’s following his own agenda.
We’re given frequent reminders as to Clarice Starling’s relative lack of physical stature as she finds herself surrounded by taller police officers time and time again. This only serves to make us root for her even more when we reach the final act as the net closes in on the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. She may not be physically imposing but what she lacks in size she more than makes up for in mental acuity.
There are brief moments of graphic violence, although in our post-Saw world of torture porn movies it’s relatively tame by comparison. There’s much more of a psychological tension to these events, which in many respects is a far better than showing you every single gory moment. The picture created by your own mind is often a far more effective method at creating unease rather than having the images provided. Whilst the levels of violence are relatively low, it is rife with scenes of tension, in particular those of Starling interviewing Lecter in his cell. Thanks to the performances of Hopkins and Foster they are much, much more than just a simple tete-a-tete from two sides of a perspex prison cell window. It’s Starling’s aforementioned mental acuity that puts her almost on a par with Lecter, his clues and puzzles allowing Starling to try and resolve the case herself.
Hopkins is clearly at the top of his game at this point in his career, churning out performance after performance of Oscar-baiting quality. His Hannibal Lecter is certainly one of those performances, a combination of sinister charm and hidden motivations lurking just beneath the surface. That’s not to do a disservice to Foster’s performance, who manages to hold her own in terms of both the verbal and physical aspects of the role, creating perhaps one of the all-time great female characters in cinema, and quite frankly we don’t see enough of them.
The Silence of the Lambs is, frankly, an excellent piece of film making, combining great acting with a solid thriller story and clear direction. The plot unfolds at a natural pace and resolves itself with little in the way of superfluous story or confusing narrative. At its heart it also remains quite a chilling story, not overt with its horror element but providing just enough in terms of actual onscreen violence to ramp up the tension and keep you guessing as to the outcome all the way to the finale.