Taking the flagging serial killer thriller genre and turning it on its head, The Silence of the Lambs is a much darker, sinister and intelligent film than any of its kind before it.
Featuring great direction by Jonathan Demme and an excellent screenplay by Ted Tally (based on Thomas Harris’ bestselling crime novel), The Silence of the Lambs tells the story of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a trainee FBI agent who is asked to interview infamous psychiatrist turned serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lector (Anthony Hopkins) in hopes that he will shed light on the identity and whereabouts of at large serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine).
Taking a liking to Starling, Lector develops a relationship with the inexperienced field agent getting inside of her head whilst Starling tries to draw out information from him. When a high ranking Senator’s daughter is abducted by Buffalo Bill, Starling is caught in a race against time to save her using the information provided by Lector.
The Silence of the Lambs is a disturbing, tense and suspenseful watch which does not shy away in its depiction of violence and use of gore. It is not a slasher film that tries to scare with an overuse of violence, but is a well written crime horror thriller that contains a chilling, creepy edge throughout. The now infamous walk down the corridor towards Lectors cell is an eerie scene full of dread and trepidation, the kind of thing that nightmares are made of.
Jodie Foster gives a career best performance as the intelligent, tough and yet at times vulnerable FBI agent who is stuck within a world where men constantly belittle and hit on her.
Anthony Hopkins too gives a career best performance, in the process creating one of the greatest all time screen-villains who is equal parts highly intelligent, charming and insane. One of the best under actors of all time, Hopkins quietly and deftly transforms himself into one of the best devilish forms of monstrosity to hit the big screen.
The chemistry between both actors is off the wall. At its core, The Silence of the Lambs is about the twisted relationship that develops between these two characters throughout the film. And although Hopkins has worked with other actors of high esteem throughout the Hannibal Lector series, none have come close to matching what he and Foster had.
Ted Levine is very good as the surly, creepy, deep voiced serial killer with an obsession for human flesh, as is Anthony Heald as the weasel like Dr. Chilton.
Since it is such an influential movie, there have been many sequels and copy cats, but perhaps with the exception of David Fincher’s 1995 seminal classic Seven has The Silence of the Lambs ever been bettered.