DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Hannibal

Friday, 16 October 2009


Hannibal (2001) dir. Ridley Scott
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Gary Oldman


I remember really digging this film when it first came out. Sir Ridley Scott, recently resurrected after his success with 'Gladiator', with 'Hannibal' seemed an unusual follow-up film to that Best Picture Oscar winner. Even more peculiar was the Pulitzer Prize-winning working class scribe, David Mamet (with help from prolific Hollywood writer-for-hire Steven Zallian) who adapted the screenplay.

It still is a weirdly peculiar product of Hollywood. Clearly Thomas Harris was lured by Hollywood to write another book featuring his Lambs protag Clarice Starling chasing after the escaped criminal Hannibal Lecter. While his two previous efforts, Lambs and Manhunter were brooding psychological and procedural police-cum-horror films, ‘Hannibal’ is made into a comic book superhero with a kind of grotesqueness meant to better the atrocities and vileness of the Lambs with an over-the-top sense of black comedy.

Anthony Hopkins, more aged, a little stockier, doesn’t quite have the controlled physique and thus quiet menace of the 1991 version. And the inability of the producers (and not even the revered Ridley Scott!) to bring back Jodie Foster hurt its credibility. Julianne Moore is good actress though and tries her best, but that Southern drawl accent never quite fits her and Scott’s attempts to continue the exploration of her insecurities in the police force are peppered throughout but never manifest in a substantially effective way.

‘Hannibal’ works best as a disposable but elegant B-thriller. The middle act is jumpstarted with the introduction of the film’s best character, (Giancarlo Giannini), the broken-down and corrupt Italian police inspector who wants to claim the private ransom money. Driven with a great music pulse from Hans Zimmer, act 2 sails along with a brisk pace. Scott's always been a slower paced director, but by cutting to characters in a number of locations and different characters in the US and Italy creates a heady momentum. And the inclusion of bombastic performances from Ray Liotta and Gary Oldman should be taken as black comedy.

If anything, the film suffers from the flaws which have plagued Sir Ridley in films' past. Fans of his might welcome the application of his familiar baroque and extravagant visual design. Others, like myself well attuned to his body of work, may only see more long flowing drapes, smoke-filled atmospheric and overly decorated interiors. And the opening drug bust sequence is typical of his new methods of filming action scenes – a multi-camera simultaneous coverage approach which results in dull television look.

"Hannibal" is available on Blu-Ray in MGM Home Entertainment's 'Hannibal Lecter' Collection, along with 'Manhunter' and 'Silence of the Lambs'. The Blu-Ray transfer is atrocious and indistuingishable from the DVD. For shame.

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