Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: David Mamet and Steven Zaillian
Cinematographer: John Mathieson
by Jon Cvack
I’m not sure why I wasn’t interested in ever checking out this film. I assume it had something to do with Silence of the Lamb’s greatness and not wanting to tarnish its mythology, the way sequels and prequels often do. But it’s been slim pickings on the instant views between HBO Go and Netflix so I figured I’d give it a go.
There’s something about films made in the late 90s/early 00s - up there with frosted tips and carpenter jeans with those loops midway down that I still don’t understand (though assume could hold a hammer) - that caused filmmakers to make really gross and cheap choices, specifically with the use of slow motion when the film wasn’t shot in slow motion, achieved through a mixture of blending the frames while slowing them down. It’s easy to blame some studio heads who needed this effect in order to enhance the emotions; I just don’t think that’s necessarily who was calling the shots. Hannibal contains this effect more than one time, which is about 1 + n more times than was needed, even going so far as to cut and blend as many frames as possible to really make it look like an even bigger piece of garbage.
Aside from Clarice Starlings’ (Julianne Moore) storyline, the story is actually pretty good. Except why does it seem that sequels need to take their very clear and defined heroes and find an absurd way to discredit everything they’ve ever done? I can’t think of many films off the top of my head and assume it’s because it happens so often for equally uninspired story progressions that they’ve all melded together. Regardless, after a drug bust gone wrong, Clarice Starling is now on ‘thin ice’ and put back on the Hannibal case, lobbied by the wealthy and powerful Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), whose mask is pull-you-out bad (though the eyeballs are pretty awesome). I had no idea this was Gary Oldman, who allegedly put up a huge fight to get billing, and I don’t think a single viewer would know it’s him either (and maybe that’s why he wanted it).
Any way - Verger petitions Justice Department Official Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) to have Clarice reassigned and it’s clear there’s some dirty business going on. You see, Verger was once attacked by Hannibal Lecter and has dedicated his life to hunting him down. Meanwhile, in Rome, Itally a police inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Gincarlo Gianni) is investigating the disappearance of a library inspector, replaced by a strange and eccentric gentleman named Dr. Fell, who is of course, Hannibal Lector. Pazzi discovers that Verger is giving away $3 million dollars to whoever can find Hannibal, so rather than launching a proper police investigation, he instead opts to assist the bounty hunters.
And so begins a very exciting and entertaining story, with a closing scene that is one for the books, particularly when the young girl on the airplane inquires as to what Hannibal is eating (this image has been stuck in my mind for about a week now). It’s crazy to think this film came out in 2001, just seven years after the original, when it feels so new and fresh by comparison. The trivia for this film alone is fascinating, with David Mamet allegedly penning one of the earliest drafts and Steve Zallian going on to do the rewrite since Mamet was directing a film and couldn’t afford the time; Jonathan Demme expressed interest in directing the project but abhorred the gore and feared he couldn’t make it as great as Silence of the Lambs (makes sense); the ending in the book has Clarice and Hannibal run off together as a couple (what?!); and Ron Vawter played the original ‘Justice Department Official’ in the original draft.
Hans Zimmer thought that the film was a modern Romeo and Juliet, with Hannibal and Clarice taking on the two iconic roles. Given the novel’s actual ending, I’m anxious to read the book to see it's pulled off. Currently, I just don’t see that much attraction from Clarice, neither in the original nor in the film. It’d be a tough balance to find for any performer; to deal with the conflict of attraction toward someone so reprehensible. I’m also not sure audiences would have enjoyed it, but it would have been different, that's for sure. Perhaps some of the issues will get resolved in Red Dragon, which is the last in the series I have to check out.
BELOW: Brain on the Plane
Thoughts on films, old and new
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