“The Silence of the Lambs” translates unbelievably well from paper to screen. In fact, the 1991 psychological thriller is rare in that it’s arguably better than Thomas Harris’ book of the same name, and Harris’ text is great. Largely, “The Silence of the Lambs’” success is due to the tag-team of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, as well as the subtle yet effective horror elements found within.
FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) receives an assignment to interrogate famed cannibal and psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Clarice’s superior, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) considers Lecter’s intuition a valuable asset in tracking down the serial killer “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine). While initially reluctant to cooperate with a novice, Lecter and Starling eventually form a bond of kinship.
Lecter, ever the psychiatrist despite his confinement, complies with Clarice’s request for assistance on a quid pro quo basis: Starling must discuss her past for Lecter to offer insight. The search for Buffalo Bill intensifies when Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith), daughter of a U.S. Senator, is kidnapped by Bill.
“The Silence of the Lambs” is utterly captivating, and maintains tension despite shedding traditional horror qualities. There’s scant blood or gore, yet the film shames even the grisliest of slasher flicks. What’s so frightening is the realism of “The Silence of the Lambs.” It’s actually plausible, and additionally the characters are complex. Lecter isn’t an embodiment of pure evil like Michael Myers, or a semi-supernatural murderer. He’s a psychiatrist with a brilliant understanding of human nature, and a penchant for butchering and sautéing his fellow homo sapiens.
Anthony Hopkins is terrifying and terrific as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. His captivating genius of a psychopath displays a remarkably calm and collected demeanor, complimented by strong rationality which starkly contrasts his cannibalistic tendencies. Though Hopkins isn’t afforded much screentime, his presence extends beyond the scenes in which he appears. Jodie Foster is stunning as Clarice Starling, and really matches the veteran Hopkins. It’s difficult to convey the complicated and intricate backstory held within the pages of The Silence of the Lambs, and through masterful direction by Johnathan Demme and Foster’s spellbinding depiction, they bring Starling to life.
“The Silence of the Lambs” is one of the greatest psychological thrillers, achieving wonders through acting rather than effects. Considering the action is fairly minimal, being able to hold viewer attention so powerfully is immensely impressive. A beautifully haunting movie, “The Silence of the Lambs” is the kind of movie you can watch annually. Thomas Harris’ novel is worth reading as well, and lends a fleshed out perspective on a well-paced, eerie flick.