But, what you may have not known is that the movie that made this character so iconic and forever instilled Anthony Hopkins in the thriller hall of fame, is actually the middle in a trilogy. The movies in chronological (timeline) order are: Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and finally, Hannibal. Side note: these are only the films with Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal. There are several other films about the character of Hannibal including “Hannibal Rising” in 2007. And another side note: I have yet to watch Hannibal yet, so I will most likely post a second half to this review after I watch Hannibal. As my usual MO this will go: brief overview of the movie and main points, the villains, high and low points and my overall opinion. So sit back and relax as we dive into the world of the chilling Hannibal.
Red Dragon, was released in 2002 and was actually the third movie to be released, 11 years after Silence of the Lambs in 1991 and one year after Hannibal in 2001. Red Dragon features Edward Norton as the hero, former FBI agent Will Graham and Ralph Fiennes (more commonly known as Voldemort) as the villain Francis Dolarhyde a.k.a. the “Tooth Fairy” as he is referred to by the FBI. The summary on IMDB says “A retired FBI agent with psychological gifts is assigned to help track down "The Tooth Fairy", a mysterious serial killer; aiding him is imprisoned criminal genius Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter.” The movie opens with a short sequence of how Hannibal got caught, arrested and imprisoned after being found out by Graham and almost killing each other and then the fun ensues. You also get to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a nosey paparazzi who gets set on fire.
Moving onto a brief overview of Silence of the Lambs. The official summery says “A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.” This movie shows a young Jodie Foster as F.B.I. cadet Clarice Starling who tries to get Hannibal to help them catch killer “Buffalo Bill” before he can kill a senetor’s daughter and use her skin to finish making his, ahem, skin suit. As disgusting as it sounds, you actually see very little gore. As the case progresses Clarice finds out that Hannibal actually knows the killer and Buffalo Bill used to be one of his clients DUN DUN DUUUUUN.
Let’s talk about the villains. One, Francis Dolarhyde is obsessed with this painting of a dragon and is convinced that by killing these married women that they are being “reborn” and he becomes more a part of this dragon. Did I mention he has some serious issues after being verbally and mentally abused by his mean grandma? No? Well that explains a large portion of his issues I’d say. Anyone who says that Voldemort is Fiennes best roll needs to sit their bum down and watch Red Dragon because I beg to differ. Don’t like thrillers but just like Ralph Fiennes? Well you get to see his completely naked, aside from tattoos, backside…TWICE! So hey there is fun for everyone!
Second, Buffalo Bill. Personally I feel like Buffalo Bill isn’t as present in the story line as Dolarhyde is in Red Dragon. You don’t see as much of his backstory and I feel like there isn’t as much depth to his character as there could be. However, that does not mean there is no insight whatsoever. You do wind up finding out more reasoning behind why he is hunting the women, but I won’t spoil that for you.
Finally, Hannibal. Hopkins transforms into a cold and calculated killer flawlessly and his performance is absolutely chilling how well he did this role. I now understand why he received so much recognition over these films. What I like is that Hannibal isn’t the kind of villain who is going to run up and shoot you in the face, he gets inside your head and toys with your mind.
My final opinion: The only downside is the length of the movies for me. At a 118 and 124 minutes they are not short by any means and for some it may be difficult to sit through a movie that long. Also, the movie isn’t anything like a Michael Bay film with crap blowing up every two seconds, you have to commit to watching the movie because it is a slow build up. Overall, these movies are amazing psychological thrillers that are worth the watch. If nothing else, check out the main of the three: Silence of the Lambs. The characters are so complex and Hopkins shines, in a sense, and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen any of the movies until a few months ago (I must have been living under a freaking rock!) Two thumbs up in my book.