MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Brooke Smith, Diane Baker, Kasi Lemmons, Frankie Faison, Tracey Walter, Charles Napier, Roger Corman/Runtime: 118 minutes
I feel it is safe to start this review off by just coming right out and stating the obvious: Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece you cannot miss if you even have the most distant and remote love and/or appreciation for film as an art form. Indeed this film truly is a masterclass mixture of some of the best elements of the horror, crime and psychological thriller genres respectively into a perfectly woven for your viewing “pleasure” story. Also of worthy note is the fact that this is also only the third film in cinematic history to walk away with the Academy Awards in what most consider to be the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay. Indeed if that accolade didn’t already clue you in I feel it should also be said that from top to bottom this film manages to showcase an absolutely expert level of craftsmanship in virtually every possible single department of filmmaking, and then adds on to it’s potency by providing audiences with powerhouse turns from a true cast for the ages. Indeed after all of this time, this is a film which has managed to remain in a class all its own. More importantly though, Silence of the Lambs is also a perfect example of just how extraordinary a film can truly hope to become when all the right elements manage to come together and work in perfect synchronicity in order to create a masterpiece unlike any other….
The plot is as follows: Based on the novel of the same name, Silence of the Lambs introduces us to a top student at the FBI’s training academy over at Quantico named Clarice Starling who finds her training put to the test. This test comes in the form of one of her instructors selecting her to help out by interviewing an infamous criminal named Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is a genius psychiatrist who, when not seeing patients, is also a violent psychopath & is currently serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and….gulp cannibalism. The reason for this visit is because apparently the FBI believes that Lecter may have insight into an ongoing investigation into a serial killer called Buffalo Bill that’s MO is the murdering and subsequent skinning of his victims and that, despite spending his time eating brains, Lecter might be willing to use his brain for the right person and help the FBI nab this psychopath hence Starling’s involvement. It isn’t long thereafter however before a simple request for help on a profile becomes a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse and young Agent-in-Training Starling finds herself faced with 2 different kinds of evil; one brutal and ruthless, and the other sly, charming, and heinous beyond all imagining…..
Now this film features some truly phenomenal work from the director’s chair by a man by the name of Jonathan Demme. Indeed this is a film that manages to do a magnificent job of introducing not only a bone-curdling sense of dread and unease, but also manages to have an audience completely hooked right from the get go. Not only that, but this film manages to also contain quite the foreboding score which then manages to fill the screen right up until the end, with particular regard to this film’s riveting and potent climax which is both perfectly designed and an absolute nail-biter in the best sense of the word. Now that being said, I definitely felt that this film’s editing was absolutely pitch perfect due to the pacing being seemingly diabolically methodical from start to finish with each and every sequence that we see on screen being absolutely essential and relevant to this film’s chilling story. The film also manages to contain some absolutely stunning cinematography in just how much it manages to create for the audience a dark and moody atmosphere that both captivates as well as terrorizes in equal measure. The film also manages to put on display a phenomenal sense of camera work that manages to up the creep and tension factors by a scale factor of at least 10 while also showcasing a wonderful sense of minimal lightning that manages to further enhance the dark and very adult atmosphere that this film’s engrossing story was clearly striving to achieve. Finally this film’s script is also a true work of brilliance. This is because this is one of those rare scripts that not only contains a well-structured plot, a well-designed arc for practically every character has a well-defined arc, an immensely well-done focus on attention, but also has a practically perfect in nearly every way story and narrative for audiences members to follow.
Now this film’s performances are, quite plain and simply, truly one-in-a-million. This of course starts with Jodie Foster as film lead Clarice and Foster is both perfectly cast and manages to do a remarkable job in showcasing for us a riveting portrayal of a young woman who is vainly trying to move on from a past that she would rather not discuss yet simultaneously also attempting to show that she has what it takes to make her way in a career that for a long time was quite male dominated and to some extent still is. Indeed the most remarkable thing though is how Foster takes what could’ve been a caricature and instead makes Clarice into a three-dimensional character. Just as remarkable as Foster, if not slightly more so, is screen legend Anthony Hopkins in the performance of his long and storied career. Indeed it is obvious just watching his performance unfold before your very eyes, but as the infamously cannibalistic in nature serial killer that is Hannibal Lecter Hopkins manages to showcase just the right mixture of charisma, high intelligence and destructive violence that when combined together manages to give us as audience members a bone-chilling and soul-curdling performance that I can definitely say will 100% stand the passage of time as one of the absolute best in the history of the medium that is cinema. Indeed the fact that he doesn’t have nearly as much screen time as you might think just makes this even more of an ode to Hopkins’ acting abilities since, despite not having as much time to work with, he still manages to both repulse and draw you in and in the process become easily one of the most known villains in the history of film. Now the supporting cast that this film has managed to surround these 2 heavyweight performances with is nothing short of fantastic as well. This starts with Ted Levine from Monk as Buffalo Bill. Indeed make no mistake; he might not be as sophisticated as Hopkins’ Lecter, but this is still a fantastic performance since Levine really manages to sell the brutal, animalistic nature of this madman quite well and really makes you wonder who should scare you more: the beast or the cannibal. Also of worthy note is Scott Glenn who brings a wonderful mix of both formality yet also respect for his student and what she can bring to the table in his role of Starling’s instructor Jack Crawford and Anthony Heald who brings just the right amounts of sliminess and pompous vanity to the role of the head of the sanitarium where Lecter is being held. Indeed there is not a single weak link in this cast, and everyone is truly operating at the peak of their talents thus making for a true display of phenomenal acting capability.
All in all and at the end of the day, it is my honest opinion that Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest films ever made of the past 30+ years easily. Along with that, I also feel that this is also a master class on directing, screenplay writing, camerawork, editing, score, and how to truly get the best work possible out of a game cast of performers. Indeed this is the film that managed to create the legacy of wonderful performances that we have gotten since from both Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster and their iconic turns as these characters are undoubtedly familiar to even those with a passing interest in cinema. Ultimately this is also a movie which I feel is the rarest of movies out there in that I feel this film is one that 100% deserves all the recognition it has gotten and the awards it has earned both for just what it has brought to the world of cinema, and for what it has brought to the world of pop culture as well. Indeed Silence of the Lambs is a truly remarkable achievement in genre filmmaking that has managed to simultaneously both inspire yet also influence countless films just like it in the years since its release. Indeed this is not just a must-see in the psychological horror department of the world of film; this is also a very dark, very harrowing, and very adult look at just how twisted mankind can truly be, but in the process makes it into a brilliant film that every movie goer must see at least once. On a scale of 1-5 I give Silence of the Lambs a solid 4.5 out of 5.