Going to see Hannibal on Valentines Day was probably not the most romantic suggestion I have ever come across, but I had no regrets and found this much anticipated sequel both entertaining and engaging.
If you go and see Hannibal expecting the drama, suspense and chilling thrill of Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) you will be disappointed. Instead go with an open mind to see a beautifully filmed, well acted and directed story which is a Sequel and a 10 years on progression from the previous film.
The case of Hannibal Lecter has reopened 10 years on, as Hannibal's fourth victim (and only one to survive) the massively wealthy Mason Verger, (the excellent and unrecognisable Gary Oldman) wants revenge for being hideously deformed, pays for Hannibal to be reinstated onto the FBI ten most wanted list.
Special Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) has been disgraced after leading a FBI case which goes drastically wrong leaving five dead. For her punishment Clarice is given the task of relocating the legendary Hannibal Lecter.
Clarice locked up in her basement at the Bureau begins her investigation to the whereabouts of Lecter.
Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) is living in Florence, Italy, leading a relatively normal life for a psychopathic serial killer when the super intelligent doctor gets wise of Clarice's search and decides it is time to bring himself out of retirement and help Clarice out by sending her a letter.
Italian Screen legend Giancarlo Giannini is brilliant as desperate Italian cop Rinaldo Pazzi who recognises Hannibal and sets about to snare him in order to claim the handsome reward offered by Verger.
Hannibal cleverly outwits the detective in a chilling psychological battle, only to lead the Italian to his death by disembowelment and the indignity of hanging from one of the many beautiful Florence buildings, only after acknowledging this as similar death once endured by a shamed ancestor of Pazzi.
Hannibal then comes back to America in search of his beloved Clarice; the film then proceeds to a rather dramatic and very gory close. For those of you who have read the book (I haven't) the ending will surprise you as it did me - it is left very open almost without narrative closure leaving you wondering when the next sequel will be a announced!
There has been much hype in the promotional run up to this film of the replacement of Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore. Moore does a tremendous job as an older, wiser more cynical Starling (who entered the Guinness book of records as the female FBI agent with the most killings).
Hopkins is excellent once more as Lecter and the surprise in this film is that you find yourself willing Hannibal "the cannibal" the mad psychopathic serial killer to victory. Hannibal becomes the hero for getting rid of the smarmy, callous, creepy, paedophile that is Mason Verger, who initially a victim becomes the baddie. Instead of the slurping (due to studio rights) and Chianti, Hopkins gives Lecter a new older dimension with new characteristics and lines like " Okay Dokey"
The pace and feel of Hannibal is different to Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) but never-the-less compelling.
For those who say, "it is not as good as the original", I ask how can it be? We all know the characters of Lecter and Starling and all have our own ideas and preconceptions of how the story should evolve. This is Ridley Scott's interpretation. The initial intrigue and shock of the character of Lecter and his relationship with Starling has gone, this film takes the story onto a different level which is ten years later, the characters have grown and the story IS DIFFERENT.