• JFS the Reviewer

The Silence of the Lambs 30th Anniversary review


Hello there, it’s been a long time since I’ve written an actual review around here. I apologize, but I’ve been rather busy with work and some stuff in my personal life. But I’m happy to be back and ready to tackle a film I wanted to do a video for in February, but never found the chance to do so. I’ll also have another written review for the March 22, 1991 film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.


For now, though? I’m going to be reviewing this classic thriller film and go over why it still holds up even three decades later.


Background


The film is based off the 1988 novel with the same name, written by Thomas Harris’. The book is a psychological horror novel, which is a sequel to Harriss’ 1981 novel Red Dragon. Another book, which ended up being made into a film in 2002. About 11 years after Silence of the Lamb and a year after the movie Hannibal, which was also based off the 1999 novel.


The director of the film was Jonathan Demme, who passed away on April 26, 2017. His first film to direct was Caged Heat (1974) to Married to the Mob (1988), Philadelphia (1993), The Truth About Charlie (2002), and Ricki and the Flash (2015). The film was produced by Kenneth Utt, Edward Saxon, and Ron Bozman. While the film’s screenplay was done by Ted Tally, who also had worked on Red Dragon.


The film was produced by Strong Heart Productions and distributed by Orion Pictures. The film premiered in New York City on January 30, 1991 and later released on February 14, 1991. The film ran on a budget of $19 million dollars and made over $270 million dollars. Becoming a box-office success and also winning Best Picture in the Academy Awards in 1991 of the same year. Along with Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.


The film had become a huge success and has gained a following over the years. Still, after 30 years, does the film still hold up or is there some stuff from it that hasn’t aged well?


Plot:


The story of the film focuses on Clarice Starling, an FBI agent in training who has been assigned on a case. She has been sent to interview a former psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. To get his help on a criminal the FBI are hunting down for, who they have named “Buffalo Bill". He’s given this name because he kills young women and removes their skin from their bodies.


Throughout the course of the film, we see Lecter become interested in Clarice, who in turn begins to understand Lecter and uses the clues he left for her to find the killer. All the while, we find out more about what Buffalo Bill is doing with the skin of his victims and why he is doing it. Clarice begins putting two and two together and this leads to her confrontation against the killer. Where she has to not only stop him, but also save his latest victim from suffering the same fate as his past ones.


To me, this story does a great job keeping you invested in what is going on. You’re wondering why the killer is doing this, while also interested in the sort of friendship we see forming between Lecter and Clarice. We see he knows who the killer is but is trying to help Clarice figure out who he is without him telling her. This becomes a bit of a game for him, but also appears to be him trying to help her learn.


To see what no other FBI agent is able to see and use what he taught her to help her in her career.



All the while him helping her with her own problems that she has dealt with since she was young. To help her overcome it and help her perhaps even find some bit of peace. Lecter clearly shows to have some interest in Clarice when they met and the more, they talk the more he begins to like her. Of course, he doesn’t show it like in a romantic kind of way like we’ve seen in other films.


To me, the chemistry between Clarice and Lecter is the best part of the story. I love the mystery of this film and wondering how they’re going to be able to solve the case. It keeps you hooked on everything that is going on without relying on big action scenes or huge explosions. It’s a in my view a mystery thriller kind of film that you can sit back and enjoy.


Now, are there any negatives with the story? There are certain scenes when not involving Clarice and Lecter that does get a little boring. The pacing slows down a little, but not too much to make other scenes bad. Also, during a scene with Lecter in the museum, you kind of see where it’s going.


You know what’s going to happen and can figure out the twist. If you pay attention of course.


Still, the rest of the story isn’t that bad, and it is still fun to watch. If you are offended with scenes involving Buffalo Bill and what he does with the skin, then that might be a problem. However, the story is still well done and was able to keep my interest as time passes. All while wondering how Clarice is going to solve the mystery and save the final victim.


Characters:


The cast for this film is amazing when you see who it is. Jodie Foster who plays Clarice Starling, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford, Red Levine as Buffalo Bill, and many other great actors who did a good job with their roles.

Clarice is shown to be someone who is trying to earn her place within the FBI, while also showing she can see things that the rest of her colleagues don’t seem to see. However, she isn’t taken as seriously as she had hope she would. Until she meets Lecter, who becomes fascinated with her.


Lecter is said to be a cannibal serial killer but is shown to be quite the gentleman when speaking to Clarice. He isn’t rude, doesn’t act like a cliché villain, but is very smart. He has class, but also has no problem insulting certain people. Not in a childish way, but in a way that he is able to read what they are really like and is able to insult them that way.


The chemistry between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins to me is what made the film so good. The interaction between their characters kept me hooked on everything that is going on. You can see how well they are able to play off one another through their interactions and how they seem to enjoy working with one another. It’s a shame Jodie never came back for the sequel, since Anthony’s interaction with Julianne Moore, who took the roll of Clarice wasn’t the same.


The rest of the cast does a good job with their roles, especially Ted Levine who plays our main antagonist, Buffalo Bill. You wonder why he’s doing what he’s doing and when you find out what he does with the skin, it can get creepy. I can understand though why the LGBT community at the time were offended by his character. However, it doesn’t mean everyone else hated the character.


He’s clearly smart despite being insane. He is able to stay ahead of the FBI, know how not to leave evidence to trace back to him, and he’s difficult to hunt down. He isn’t going around bragging about it and keeps to himself. All the while, trying to become what he wants to be with the skin of his victims.


Despite how the actors all did, some of their characters I feel weren’t given enough development and some appeared to be a little offensive. However, the cast still did an amazing job and I have to remember this was a 90s film. So, some stuff they did back then appeared acceptable to them.


However, in today’s time and probably in the future, it won’t hold up.


Special effects/music/settings:


There is no CGI in this film or a lot of special effects. This is good since to me the film doesn’t need any of it. It doesn’t need to be filled with action scenes, people shooting at one another in every scene, and explosions. It relies on building up the tension and the suspense, which is what makes it work.


Tak Fujimoto does an amazing job as the film’s Cinematography and how the film is shot. A good example of this is how they reveal Lecter for the first time and then another when he is brought to the airport to meet the mother of the kidnapped victim. Good close up shots to show the expressions our characters are giving. And the way the film is shot at the end was impressive.


The music composed by Howard Shore, who if the name sounds familiar was the composer for The Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbit films. He did an amazing job with the music used here, especially for certain scenes and even ones that kept me at the edge of my seat.

A good example is when Clarice confronts Buffalo Bill and has to find him in the dark. The way the music was building up the tension, while our main antagonist uses night vision goggles to see Clarice.


Each time getting closer and closer to her, but each time stops as if he is toying with her. We finally get to her knowing where he is and finally gets him before he could kill her.


Other than some scenes that do get a little boring at times, there isn’t really anything wrong with the film. They did an amazing job building the tension, used the music to make these suspenseful scenes work, and all builds to a great finale.


Final Thoughts:


Without a doubt, Silence of the Lambs is an amazing film, that still holds up to this day. It has a great story, an amazing cast, and keeps you guessing on what’s going to happen. It’s in my view a mystery film, which is a lot of fun to watch and is suspenseful during certain scenes. It all builds to a great final act, while the ending of the film differs from the book.


Does it have its flaws? Yes, but to me they are minor. Nothing too serious to hurt the rest of the film. It’s still one I highly recommend checking out and one that will not disappoint you.


If this isn’t the type of film for you, then that’s fine. Also, this is not a film for a young audience. I recommend waiting until they are at least a little older like 16 years old before they can watch this. Please do not have any younger kids watch this.


Other than that, if you are interested in this film, then check it out and enjoy.

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