Hannibal Rising

Hannibal Rising


Reviewed by: Chris

We are all voyeurs at heart. Don't gaze at that car crash. Act normal to the boy with Tourette's Syndrome. You don't want to know what the latest escaped pervert did to the girl down the road. Or do you?

Monsters, or ones we deem accidents of nature, are a constant source of fascination. Those in the cinema are like fairground rides, safe but scary. You can laugh, scream, or hate them with impunity. One particular cannibalistic serial killer has been called the most memorable villain in film history. His name is Hannibal Lecter.

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Sequels and prequels are often safer bets at the box office than new material. One of them (The Silence Of The Lambs) is ranked among the most significant movies of its day. Hannibal Rising represents the fifth of the Hannibal films, and is also the first to be scripted by its original creator, Thomas Harris. So is it scary?

Taking, as its overt theme, a psychopath in the making, the film introduces us to the boy Lecter in Lithuania. It's 1944 and nasty Russians and nastier Germans are killing each other, as war nears its end in the most hostile of regions. After watching his parents killed before his eyes, young Hannibal cuddles up to his little sister Mischa. But the war dogs that barge into their forest home are almost dying of starvation and Mischa looks kinda tasty.

Just as we lean forward to watch the gratuitously gory slaying and feasting on a three-year-old, the camera cuts and we follow Hannibal as he struggles through snow and border crossings to reach his Japanese aunt (Gong Li) in France. At this point I am thankful that Germans, Lithuanians, Russians, French and Japanese all speak English - how else would they understand each other?

Auntie Shikibu teaches him the art of Japanese sword and stick fighting. Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel), now in his late teens, quickly puts these techniques to use when a local butcher insults her, and later loses his head, literally.

Shikibu manages to get Hannibal off the charges and he goes to Paris to study medicine, quickly acquiring the skills a future serial killer might require, yet in flashbacks and nightmares he is haunted by the memory of his sister's death.

"Memory is a knife," Shikibu tells him, "it can hurt you."

Undeterred, he starts to track down the men who ate Mischa and, as most of them are war criminals, we get to see him almost as a good guy.

Peter Webber’s film is mainly of interest as the psychopathology of The Silence Of The Lambs. It tells us what we already guessed about how Hannibal came to be insane. The script is pedestrian, the ending a foregone conclusion and much of the acting overblown. It delivers neither horror, nor thrills, and is a long film that groans under its own lack of momentum.

To its credit, there is some fine photography and Ulliel does a brave job of making Hannibal convincing. Harris’s script does include a small twist at the end, but lacks the force to deliver a suitable climax. While adding to the growing canon of Hannibal films, I personally preferred the preceding four, even the Trey Parker song-and-dance tribute, Cannibal! The Musical.

As a revenge thriller, it is long winded. As a psychological study, it is didactic and the camera turns away too often to satisfy a true aficionado of gore. While it will have its adherents, this prequel is hardly worth rising from your armchair to go and see.

Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2007
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The most infamous gastronomic serial killer's early years.
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Read more Hannibal Rising reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray *1/2

Director: Peter Webber

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

Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Rhys Ifans, Li Gong, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Aaron Thomas, Helena Lia Tachovska, Richard Brake, Toby Alexander, Veronika Bellová, Beata Ben Ammar

Year: 2007

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France/UK/US


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