best films: #32: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Be confused if you like about just why this particular psychological thriller, which spawned a host of other sub-genre semi-horror movies similar to it, managed to receive the accolades that it did back in 1991, but I choose to accept the fact that The Silence of the Lambs is leaps and bounds ahead of the copycats for a host of reasons. If you take a look at the material alone, Thomas Harris’ novel is something of genius – though his subsequent Hannibal novels may not be as well-written, character-driven, and expertly researched – and if a movie’s source material is sub-par, you’re in trouble from the start. Following the exploits of one Clarice Starling, a petite but fiery FBI agent in the making who takes on the troubling case of Buffalo Bill, Silence gives Jodie Foster a magnificent showcase for her great talent as a tough-as-nails heroine (explain to me why she stopped working regularly?). Starling is constantly troubled and crippled by her past and her father’s death, but, as we see in the final act, Foster’s take on the tiny titan is one of even-keeled composure. And then there’s Anthony Hopkins, who’s probably never been better, as the iconic Hannibal Lecter, Starling’s advisor on the subject of all things Buffalo Bill. Lecter is a terrifying character, if nothing else than for his disturbing calm. It’s clear why he’s handled with such care and security – he’s vindictive and supremely intelligent to the core, probably the most frightening thing about him. Despite the nature of these two leads, never before has a hero and villain had quite this amount of excellent chemistry. Foster and Hopkins play so well off of each other in their bantering jail house scenes. Along with a brilliant score by Howard Shore (love the main title as Jodie’s running through the woods) and an unforgettably disturbing performance by Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill (the man will NEVER have a career as long as people always remember him as the human-skinning serial killer), Silence of the Lambs is a modern masterpiece and the best thriller your likely to encounter this side of the Hitchcock era.
Standout Performance: Oh gosh – ask me to make a harder decision, why don’t you? An all-out tie for completely opposite reasons. Hopkins is charming and well-suited for this skin-crawling character. And Foster is steady and formidable as one of the best heroes put to screen.