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Old 02-15-2018, 12:39 AM   #1192
Talon87's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
Posts: 20,548
It's Valentine's Day, and you know what that means!

It's time to watch The Silence of the Lambs!

Hilariously weird timing aside, I decided to watch Silence of the Lambs tonight. I'd never seen it before, but in my tottering quest to clear through my bucket list of acclaimed films I've still somehow not seen, I remembered Sunday that Silence of the Lambs has been on my to-see list for over twenty years. How could I have not seen it before now!? So I decided to finally rectify that, with the help of the local library. (I also have Spider-Man: Homecoming checked out, but that one will have to wait. )

This is a movie that has held up really well in some respects and is outdated in others. It felt a lot like another thriller with Scott Glenn, The Hunt for Red October. While I'd say I enjoy Red October more (and find it to be many times more rewatchable than Silence), The Silence of the Lambs is still a really solid film that every English-speaking adult should probably check out at least once, if for no other reason than:

Sir Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter. While I wouldn't say he's done as good a job here as Daniel Day-Lewis did in There Will Be Blood (not even in the same ballpark), Hopkins is nonetheless a delight to watch onscreen and overshadows all the other actors. When the film is focused on Hannibal Lecter, it is strongest; when the film is focused on its ostensible primary focus, you spend most of the time wishing we were at another Hannibal scene.

As much credit has to be given to author Thomas Harris and his creation, the character of Hannibal Lecter, as to Hopkins. While the character has been done to death in post-Silence film and literature, the very notion of a serial killer who is also as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes is incredibly great. So much so that an off-brand Hannibal Lecter in Dexter got eight seasons on television.

Spoilers follow.

Spoiler: show
The film starts to falter once we take a look at its plot and other characters.

For starters, the film's two biggest plot twists -- Hannibal was the body they loaded onto the ambulance, and Clarice's boss wasn't raiding Buffalo Bill's home at the time Bill's doorbell kept ringing -- were both things I called immediately. I didn't even mean to with the impersonation scene -- I took one look at the body on the ground, remarked to myself that he had Anthony Hopkins' hair, and was like "Well that's clearly Hannibal," expecting him to rise up and bite the rookie in the face until I realized he was hoping to get carted out of there as a patient.

Clarice is hopelessly naive, and rather than the film show her growth as a character all it ever does is demonstrate just how utterly she is at Hannibal's mercy. It cannot be said in good faith that she deserved (morals aside!) to survive her run-in with Bill at the end there -- she foolishly telegraphed her intention to fire, she then moronically chased after him into the pits of an unfamiliar building he calls home, and then -- this is the clincher -- she gets trapped in the basement with the lights turned off while he has night vision goggles on and aims his pistol straight at the back of her head. The only reason she survives is because the film's desired ending demands it -- Bill miraculously misses a point blank shot at the back of her head while she just as miraculously manages to hit her mark while firing askew. To be honest, the only thing I like about her idiotic decision to enter the basement as she did is the question it forces me to ask: did Hannibal intend her to do this? Did Hannibal intend for her to possibly die? That question alone is worth more to me than the scene itself.

The psychiatrist who runs the maximum security psych ward is a pompous buffoon. ... Which would be fine and all, except we're asked to believe that he's survived all this time or that Hannibal sincerely considers him "his greatest enemy." There's hardly any sympathy for him at the end there -- hell, I'd even say the scene is played off as a "Haha! Yay! " scene for audiences, a scene where we're meant to internally smile and clap as good ol' anti-hero Hannibal gets his revenge.

As for Jodie Foster being perfectly cast for this movie ...

Spoiler: show
I never realized how much sexism factored into the story of Silence of the Lambs. But boy does it! The movie's got a lot to say and to show about how much female Clarice Starling has to put up with from men everywhere. Male FBI students in the academy. Male supervisors. Male officers. Male psych ward patients. Male male male male male! And they're all eyeing her up, all constantly thinking either how much they want to fuck her or else how adorable it is that she thinks she's people.

... This is really funny, considering Jodie Foster's history as a long-time closeted lesbian. Because I'm absolutely positive that she could relate personally, not only as a woman but as a lesbian woman, to a lot of the same frustrations that her character Clarice Starling has to put up with.

Two final things of note before I wrap this up. One, Jodie Foster's West Virginian accent is in my opinion worse than Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent. And two, I never knew where that line, "It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!", came from. But now I know!

Overall, I guess I would give The Silence of the Lambs a "7/10 - Good" score. I'd give Hopkins' performance an 8, his character a probable 9. I would say the film ranks pretty low as far as "Gotta own it!" urges go; it's not faring too well in my estimation as far as immediate or near-future rewatchability goes. But it was a good movie, and I would not be put off to watch it again.
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