Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Welcome to another installment of RETRO REVIEW, where we take a look at films made before the year 2000. Today we’ll be looking back at a film from the the great director Jonathan Demme who passed away recently…THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 crime thriller directed by the extremely talented Jonathan Demme. The film is famous for being one of only four films in history to win the Big Five at the Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). The film stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, and Ted Levine. This review won’t shock anyone. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the great films of our time. It is a film that is brilliantly paced, cleverly made, amazingly performed, and well directed.

The first thing one notices when watching The Silence of the Lambs is the brilliant pace of the film. This is a movie that is always moving forward and using one great scene to propel it to the next. It’s easy to see how this film spawned the age of criminology procedurals we’ve seen for the past quarter century. By having such compelling, yet horrifying, characters like Hannibal Lecter playing off of the more straight-laced FBI special agent character, Clarice Starling, the film develops an interesting duality that keeps the viewer addicted and hanging off every single moment.

Further, the filmmaking in this is excellent. Demme and company develop systematic visual cues throughout the movie that make the viewer connect and identify moments in the film with imagery and motifs they’re familiar with from other media. The “descent into hell” sequence when Agent Starling goes to visit Lecter for the first time is a brilliant example of this and a sequence for the ages. By taking an unmanageable wasps nest of ideas and neatly designing a narrative to create a story with focus and clarity is incredibly impressive and is the hallmark of The Silence of the Lambs.

The film also takes an incredible risk by taking one of the great characters in all of cinema and reserving him to less than 20 minutes of screen time in the entire feature. Anthony Hopkins delivers the performance of a lifetime (rightly earning him the Oscar) and finds a way to lord over all of the events of the film despite not being the main character or main antagonist. He finds this weird space to operate that is unbelievably compelling and draws audiences back to this film time and again.

In addition to Hopkins, the rest of the cast is also brilliant. Jodie Foster as the lead character, Clarice Starling, delivers the best performance of her entire career. She has this subtlety and nuance that make her character incredibly believable and inspiring for many audience members. Ted Levine, as the antagonist Buffalo Bill, is also incredibly strong. He is transformative in this performance and represents an interesting subtlety in a character that doesn’t fully know who he is and is taking out his demons on a large number of victims.

Finally, credit for this film’s brilliance rests squarely at the feet of the late Jonathan Demme. There are lots of great pieces in this film, but without the brilliance of his guiding hand the stitching between these elements would quickly split and the film would crumble into yet another forgetful crime movie. Demme elevates a property to the next level in ways lesser directors would be unable to accomplish.

I don’t think The Silence of the Lambs is immune from some critique though. I think it definitely stands the test of time, but the certain threads that run beneath the surface feel thin. The film offers a lot narratively, but not a lot to remember in terms of a message. Many criticisms have arisen surrounding questions about representation and violence in this film. I think it largely spins away from those things by staying entirely on the surface. This doesn’t mean I think it’s a weakened effort, not by a long shot. Films that remain narratively compelling can be better than films that try to say something but aren’t interesting in and of themselves. There is a lot of brilliance here and I just wanted to point out one small issue I have with the film.

Overall, The Silence of the Lambs is a truly great film and one everyone should watch and have in their personal film collection. It is impactful and interesting and it deserves every ounce of praise it has ever received in its 26-year life. If you haven’t seen it, watch it ASAP. If you have, watch it again. Rest in Peace Jonathan Demme and thank you for this wonderful film.

Ryan’s Score: 9.5/10

Make sure to check us out and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all of our reviews, news, trailers, and much, much more!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment