The American Film Institute released a list of the top 50 heroes and villains of American cinema in 2003. At the top of the list was an oddity: a performance that lasted for a very small part of the film, but is still considered one of the most frightening, bone-chilling pieces of acting – Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” This film has long been considered one of the high-marks of modern cinema, but it could easily be argued that it doesn’t really deserve its place there.
The film has a pretty simple plot. It stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, an up-and-coming FBI agent who is tasked by her superiors to find a serial killer named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) who is kidnapping young women in order to make a suit out of their skin. This too-long episode of “Criminal Minds” comes with instructions for Clarice to seek the help of the psychopathic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.
The cinematography has some good little bits to it, including the changing of angles to indicate when a scene is supposed to be viewed from the perspective of the main character or not, but is largely nothing special. It is still good, but nothing that needs to be seen.
Jodie Foster is perfect for the role of Clarice Starling. Of course, Anthony Hopkins gives an excellent performance as Hannibal Lecter – one that will make chills go up and down your spine.
This is how the film ultimately cripples itself. How can the audience be able to focus on the story and drama of Buffalo Bill and his kidnappings when they are simply breaks in between when we get the treat of seeing Hannibal Lecter? But then again, would the audience be able to appreciate Hannibal if they got to see him all the time, or would they simply tire of him?
However, the film will most definitely scare you. There is something terrifying about the claustrophobic way in which Buffalo Bill traps his victims before he skins them – which he does, by the way, in order to make an uncanny and terrifying suit to transform himself into a woman. There is a feeling of trauma that hangs over the entire film with the reveal of Clarice’s negative childhood memories and the reputation of unashamed sickness associated with Hannibal. So be warned, you may find yourself more wary of dark corners after watching this.
“Silence of the Lambs” is not the unassailable classic that is remembered to be, but rather an unfocused film that fails to develop anything. If you can stomach being scared, then you might enjoy it, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself disappointed.