Plot: As a vicious serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill preys upon young women, the F.B.I. decides the best way to solve the case is to use a rookie agent and the most lethal serial killer of all time. The agent is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who is still knee deep in the training program, but must shoulder the heavy burden of this most important case. Her main source of potential help is though to be former master psychiatrist turned serial killer, Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The authorities believe with Lecter’s complex and incredible mental skills, he can lead Starling toward the killer and end the horrific siege. But Lecter doesn’t like to help people that much and as such, Starling is forced to use her best judgment and reveal some information to Lecter that she shouldn’t have. As Starling works to gain his trust and trade information, Buffalo Bill takes his next victim, this time the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin (Diane Baker). But as she also works to investigate the case in other avenues, Starling is drawn into a game of sorts with Lecter, who loves to hear stories of her troubled childhood. While all these elements swirl around her, can Starling use what information she can muster to put together the solution, before Buffalo Bill can take another life?
Entertainment Value: An absolute cinematic masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs won acclaim from audiences and critics alike, going on to be one of the rare films to sweep all five major categories at the Academy Awards. This wasn’t Hannibal Lecter’s first time on the big screen, but in the wake of this movie’s immense success, Manhunter would be overshadowed, to say the least. I would rank this as one of the best thrillers ever made, as it boasts strengths across the board and has minimal weak areas, so from the sharp visual design to relentless tension to the excellent performances, this movie is on point in all aspects. The narrative covers a multi-front approach with several threads in motion, but does so with great skill and never feels disjointed, especially in the expert ways those threads are woven together. This is character driven narrative, but it retains the tension and suspense of a traditional thriller, a trait that really shines at times, thanks to some remarkable set pieces. The movie even boasts impressive visual design, with masterful cinematography and terrific attention to detail in the production design, crafting a believable, authentic atmosphere. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the true classics of cinema and seems to only improve with age, so without question, this one earns our highest recommendation.
As I said before, Hannibal Lecter was first showcased on the big screen in Manhunter, but after this movie, the role would be synonymous with Anthony Hopkins and his intense, unforgettable presence. He would take home Best Actor for his work here, despite a lot less screen time than you’d expect, but he deserves the honor, as he makes the most of every second. His cold stare, sudden bursts of aggression, and just overall menace are iconic and insanely effective here. Jodie Foster would also claim an Oscar for her role here, with Best Actress added to her trophy case and she carries the movie with an authentic, powerful performance. She is able to convey so much with just a look or subtle reactions to what happens around her, often the result of being the lone woman in most scenarios. I also have to talk about Ted Levine, who is so creepy and chilling as Buffalo Bill and provides several moments that have become pop cultural fodder, from his tuck dance to the well interactions. The cast also includes Scott Glenn, Frankie Faison, Kasi Lemmons, and Anthony Heald.