Plot: What’s it about?
As a vicious serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill preys upon young women, the F.B.I. decides the best way to solve the case is to use a rookie agent and the most lethal serial killer of all time. The agent is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who is still knee deep in the training program, but must shoulder the heavy burden of this most important case. Her main source of potential help is though to be former master psychiatrist turned serial killer, Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The authorities believe with Lecter’s complex and incredible mental skills, he can lead Starling toward the killer and end the horrific siege. But Lecter doesn’t like to help people that much and as such, Starling is forced to use her best judgment and reveal some information to Lecter that she shouldn’t have. As Starling works to gain his trust and trade information, Buffalo Bill takes his next victim, this time the daughter of Senator Ruth Martin (Diane Baker). But as she also works to investigate the case in other avenues, Starling is drawn into a game of sorts with Lecter, who loves to hear stories of her troubled childhood. While all these elements swirl around her, can Starling use what information she can muster to put together the solution, before Buffalo Bill can take another life?
The 1991 Academy Awards were owned by this film, as it became only the third film to take home the statuettes in all five major categories. That means Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), and Best Director (Jonathan Demme) all went to this movie, which is very, very impressive. This movie serves as the middle chapter in three volumes, with Michael Mann’s Manhunter as the first and Hannibal as the third and final installment. In the realm of serial killer cinema, I don’t think it gets any better than this, as you have all the usual elements, but with a stellar cast and excellent direction. Other films in the serial killer genre tend to pile on the blood and cheap twists, while this one relies on strong performances and writing, but some blood is still evident also. I am sure some flaws exist, as they do with all films, but I think this is one of the best films of all time. The subject matter is handled well and never overly exploited, while the cast and crew all turn in superb work. I give this film my highest recommendation, anyone interested in cinema should give The Silence of The Lambs a look. This new two disc edition beats out the previous releases, so an upgrade is worthwhile.
His career started on a less than stellar note with Caged Heat, but director Jonathan Demme has gone on to more than prove his worth. I am not a fan of some of his films, but all are made well and make for an impressive resume. Demme, director of photography Tak Fujimoto, and the rest of the crew create an excellent visual atmosphere for this movie, which pays off in dividends as far as impact and suspense. Demme ensures the visuals are effective, but never allows them to be too flashy, which could draw the viewer away from the real focus. So the atmosphere is very good, but you never become lost in it and forget about the characters and storyline. Other films directed by Demme include Stop Making Sense, Beloved, Something Wild, Married To The Mob, and Philadelphia. I love the performance here of Anthony Hopkins (Nixon, Freejack) and though he goes over the top at times, this is one of my all time favorite turns. The cast here also includes Jodie Foster (Contact, Nell), Kasi Lemmons (Hard Target, Candyman), Lawrence Wrentz (White Man’s Burden, Congo), Scott Glenn (Backdraft, Courage Under Fire), and Ted Levine (Wild Wild West, Heat).
Video: How does it look?
The Silence of the Lambs is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The Silence of the Lambs is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This edition stacks up very well, due to the enhanced resolution and lessened grain, which was a problem on the Criterion & Image releases. The lifted grain reveals a sharper and of course cleaner image, which is great news in a dark, but detailed movie like this one. The colors remain subdued, as intended, but sometimes perk up, when needed to add to a scene’s visual impact. I saw no errors in terms of contrast either, as black levels were very sharp and detail never misses a beat. I also noted how much cleaner the print used was, as it shows minimal nicks and other wear signs, very impressive indeed. This is the finest visual presentation of this movie on home video, with a much more pleasant appearance than others, so fans should be quite pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option, which enhances the film’s atmosphere, but remains natural in tone, which is good news. Howard Shore’s superb score is well presented, with an immersive presence and rich texture, as it more than deserves. The sound effects are mostly subtle and present to add to the tense environment, but a few spots open up and surprised me, very cool, but still natural within the mix, as intended. The dialogue is crystal clear and sharp as a tack, with no problems in the least to discuss. This mix won’t knock the doors down, but it sounds great and should please fans. This disc also includes audio options in French and Spanish, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the supplements can be found on the second disc, some of which are new, others old friends. This disc’s main draw is Inside The Labyrinth, an in depth documentary that explores how the film was made, via interviews, archival materials, and clips from the picture. This piece runs about an hour and provides a wealth of information and insight, even though several key players in the production are absent. You’ll hear from crew members, cast members, the screenwriter, film critics, fans of the film, and even more participants. This is a wonderful documentary and as such, I hope MGM can produce more like it in the future. A new two part look into how the novel was brought to the screen is also included, as well as a three part look at the production itself, guided by director Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster. Also new is a featurette that explores the process behind the film’s musical score, which is well worth a look. The rest of the extras have been ported over and include a nice selection of deleted scenes, with most of the ones from the Criterion release present, but some new ones have also been added. A massive selection of still photos can also be seen, with over a hundred stills included, which cover all sorts of topics, from production shots to special effects work and beyond. This disc also includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, nine television spots, a hilarious phone message from Anthony Hopkins, an outtake reel, and the film’s theatrical trailer.