The Silence Of The Lambs

*****

Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

The Silence Of The Lambs
"The parallel stories of the two serial killers exponentially increase the tension of the whole and this unrelenting film never lets the audience relax."

Clarice Starling, a green FBI recruit, is sent to interview a captive serial killer - Hannibal Lecter. The object of the exercise is to get Lecter to give an insight into the mind of an active serial killer - Buffalo Bill - who has a curious habit of skinning his victims.

Lecter, it turns out, knows exactly who the killer is and the mind games begin. He drops clues to the killer's identity in return for snippets of personal information from Starling, leading to a grisly discovery. Meanwhile, a mutilated body is found with a moth chrysalis bizarrely lodged in its throat. The stakes are raised when Buffalo Bill kidnaps a new victim, the daughter of a senator. Starling offers Lecter a bogus transfer to more agreeable surroundings in return for the killer's name - but Lecter sets in motion his own fiendish agenda.

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Director Jonathan Demme seemed an unlikely choice for this thriller-cum-horror film as his credentials were less than inspiring, Married To The Mob is a pleasant enough comedy but hardly earth-shaking and his best film had been Swimming to Cambodia - Spalding Gray's monologue concerning the making of The Killing Fields.

Anthony Hopkins came from his success in The Elephant Man and Jodie Foster had been campaigning for the role of Starling for a while. Everything clicked.

The Silence Of The Lambs joins the ranks of a handful of perfect films. Foster pulls off the performance of her career, vulnerable yet strong. Hopkins has a blast as the cool-as-ice psycho and as the (slightly) lesser of the two evils, Ted Levine is genuinely disturbing, even if he is occasionally reminiscent of a David Lee Roth music video.

We are teased with the graphic results of the killer's handiwork, setting up the expectation of horrible possibilities. Every encounter with Lecter increases the disquiet. The parallel stories of the two serial killers exponentially increase the tension of the whole and this unrelenting film never lets the audience relax.

It snagged five Oscars in 1992, including best acting gongs for Hopkins and Foster. That Hopkins only has around 17 minutes of screen time gives some idea of the impression he makes.

And its legacy? The Silence Of The Lambs fuelled a fascination for killers and police procedurals that continues up to the various CSI series today.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2006
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Outstanding thriller about serial killer mind games.
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Director: Jonathan Demme

Writer: Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris

Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Ted Levine, Frankie Faison, Kasi Lemmons, Brooke Smith, Paul Lazar, Dan Butler, Lawrence T. Wrentz

Year: 1991

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

SSFF 2011
Glasgow 2016

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