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Many films have generated sequels. The sequel is a time honored and much maligned form of cinema. Few sequels have surpassed the original, few have even lived up to it. Most sequels have been much anticipated. The trend holds true for the sequel to the brilliant film ‘Silence of the Lambs’. Hannibal continues some ten years after the events that closed Silence. Clarice Starling (now played by Julianne Moore) is finding it difficult to live up to the fame that surrounded her student days chasing the infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lector (Sir Anthony Hopkins). She is on a drug bust near Washington DC when a shoot out occurs. Starling is forced to shoot and killer a mother holding a baby. Of course, the mother had a Mac-10 and shot Starling first but in the aftermath of Ruby Ridge and Waco the FBI is under fire for violence. Starling is reassigned back on the dead end Lector case and monitored by a stiff bureaucrat played to the hilt by Ray Liotta.. While looking for new clues to Lector’s whereabouts she comes across a former victim of Lector, the ultra wealthy Mason Verger (a heavily disguised Gary Oldman). He is out for revenge. Lector drugged Verger and feed his face to the dogs. Meanwhile, Lector is loose in Italy where a local cop becomes suspicious. He sells Lector to Verger and the fun really begins. The film does not live up to the story presented in Silence. Rather than a dramatic build up the story jumps around a bit too much. Starling is made too much of a loser while there is an attempt to provide redeeming qualities to Lector. Starling seems to deliberately saboteur her career, Lector kills who he considers ‘free range rude’ people. The polarization of good and evil that helped to make Silence is merely shades of gray here. Lector is given almost supernatural abilities here, vicious animals avoid him for example. The character of Lector and Starling worked best when the represented human beings, albeit gifted ones, that lived on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Although the movie fails to live up to expectations, the casting does not. Jody Foster declined the reprisal of her role as Starling. Taking up the role Moore does an excellent job with what she had to work with. She brings some dimension to the role but fails to make the audience believe that she lifted herself up from modest roots to the FBI. There is just a feeling I got that she was out of place in the role. Moore drifts through most of the film. While this actual works on some levels considering the story it’s like a puzzle piece that is forced into place. Hopkins is the consummate professional. He owes this role like few actors could. To play Lector the actor must present a person of extremely high intelligence, sharp powers of observation and a keen insight into others. Hopkins comes across not only this way in his role but the interviews provided shows he has many of these qualities in his own life. He commands the screen in every scene. He does more with a look or gesture than most actors can do in a lifetime. Oldman provides much of the comic relief for the film. As the disfigured Verger he gives the audience another viewpoint, one of revenge. Starling seeks justice, Lector excitement while Verger shows the base side of normal humans. Liotta is unintentionally comic in his role as the Treasury Agent in charge of Starling. His fowl mouth and uppity attitude make for a character that is not at all sympathetic. If he was the ending might have worked on a different level.

Director Ridley Scott has had a long and distinguished career. From Thelma and Louise to Blade Runner to Alien, and more recently Gladiator Scott has proven himself as a director of merit and imagination. Still, he has had his off moments like G.I. Jane. In many ways Hannibal is not the best work this amazing director. For example, in the beginning there are some techniques used that detracts from the film. The film opens with a small window in the corner that grows to fill the screen. Another is the way pigeons that form the outline of Hannibal’s face on the sidewalk. For a film like this a more straightforward approach would have presented the material far better. Scott’s trademark dark view is ever present here. The lighting is deceptive, shadows shifting, attention to the smallest details and expert framing of each scene. Scott paced the movie a bit slower than most of his flicks. At times it drags. Part of this is the audience’s anticipation of the gruesome scenes we know are about to come. The end (which most know by now) is played almost in a comic fashion. While not his best Scott’s talent makes his direction here a cut above most directors out there today.

this film has become part of the recent incentive of MGM to re-release some of their vast inventory of films in high definition. the new audio is far superior to the DTS soundtrack that accompanied the previous DVD edition. there is a much greater sonic range to the audio spectrum as well as a significantly broader sound field providing a more expansive feel. when combined with the incredibly detailed 1080p the movie takes on an intensely brilliant look so that you will think that you are seeing it for the very first time.  Even though this flick is not up to the caliber of the original it shines in this edition. once again MGM has revitalized one of their previous movies imbedding it with new life.

Posted 09/29/11

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