It's been ten years since Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) escaped from a maximum-security penitentiary - ten years in which he's roamed free, indulging his very specialized tastes. But out of sight is very definitely not out of mind - he still haunts Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), now a special agent in the FBI. And when Starling unexpectedly receives information on Lecter's whereabouts one day, she knows that she cannot rest until he is captured.
Starling's information comes courtesy Mason Verger, Lecter's horribly-disfigured sixth victim, who has devoted himself to tracking and capturing Lecter. Verger uses Starling as bait in a dangerous ploy designed to lure Lecter out of hiding and into Verger's clutches. But Verger has reckoned without Lecter's natural instincts, which alert him to danger, and with Starling's single-minded desire to capture Lecter herself. Further complicating the situation is Lecter's affection for Starling; she continues to hold an irresistible fascination for him, one which may eventually prove to be his undoing...
While "Hannibal" does have its moments, it somehow fails to capture the spirit of "The Silence Of The Lambs", which was easily more terrifying than Ridley Scott's effort. The problem is not so much with the performances - Moore, taking over from Jodie Foster, does a good Clarice Starling and Lecter, superbly characterized by Hopkins, has never before seemed so menacing - but in the script, which attempts to do too many things at one time. And so we have a number of sub-plots, including one involving an Italian policeman and another one involving inter-office rivalry, both of which detract from the thrill of the chase and leave you feeling vaguely cheated.
Scott saves his best surprises for last - the climactic dinner party scene will make you gasp - and "Hannibal" is worth sitting through just for the surprises at the end. Sadly, though, it could have been so much more...This article was first published on 24 Aug 2001.