The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Review: A Perfect Classic
“To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman.”
Synopsis: A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
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The Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie. I am always interested in watching it, and though I’ve seen it countless times, I still find it engaging. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s one of the only movies I accord a perfect grade to. (Or maybe that is surprising, considering my fondness for B-horror creature features.)
I honestly consider this movie more of a crime thriller than a true horror flick, but if it’s close enough for Rotten Tomatoes to count, it’s close enough for me. And with the gruesome subject matter, I can understand the argument in favor of including it.
Usually my reviews focus on a few things the movie did well, and rip into what the movie lacks. But The Silence of the Lambs is on point in every major category: the story is well-told, the cinematography is engaging without being intrusive, the music is a perfect backdrop, and the actors deliver incredible performances. It would have been easy here to make some of the characters – hell, all of them – caricatures or one-dimensional nobodies, but even the smaller parts have depth to them. Clarice (Jodie Foster) in particular is given treatment that’s almost unheard of: she’s allowed to be both feminine and tough. She has vulnerable moments, and shows both doubt and weakness, but she carries on anyway. In a society where just about any portrayal of women in the media is shoehorned into one category or the other, Clarice is allowed to be a well-rounded, realistic character.
Though you could certainly argue that there be dragons here, even the serial killers in Silence of the Lambs are treated as people. Damaged people, but still perhaps people deserving empathy. Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine may be portraying cold-hearted men who have done dastardly things, but through glimpses into Billy’s past and Dr. Lecter’s relationship with Clarice, the audience gets a glimmer of what humanity could still be lurking in their depths. That adds another thick layer of psychological tension to the piece – the monsters are, in small ways, humanized. And that is truly horrifying.
If more movies this well-crafted existed, Codex Mortis wouldn’t exist. The Silence of the Lambs more than earns its A.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: A+
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