HANNIBAL (2001) Reviews and overview


‘Break the silence’

Hannibal is a 2001 horror-thriller feature film directed by Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant; Prometheus; Alien) from a screenplay written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian, based on Thomas Harris’ 1999 novel.

The film also served as a sequel to Silence of the Lambs (1991). The movie stars Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman (uncredited) and Giancarlo Giannini.


It is ten years since the events of the previous film and FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), recently in trouble with her superiors over a bungled shoot-out, suddenly receives a letter from the escaped Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins). It does not reveal his whereabouts but, after many years of inactivity, it does announce his interest in returning to the public domain. Clarice begins scanning the internet, desperately searching for any clues which will help her reach him before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, a Hannibal victim – multi-millionaire Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) – is also on the trail of his tormentor, eager for revenge…


In 2001, Hannibal of course, followed up Silence of the Lambs, director Jonathan Demme’s 1991 Best Picture Oscar winner and box-office blockbuster that made serial killers into cinematic box-office gold (and bigger folk heroes amongst the hoi polloi than they already were) thanks to Anthony Hopkin’s showy, career-remaking incarnation of author Thomas Harris’ fictional psychiatric genius, epicure and maniac Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lecter.

Before imitations came along (TV’s Profiler and Dexter, filmdom’s aptly titled Copycat, the Dom Deluise parody Silence of the Hams etc.), Demme’s film was quite strong tea from a then-major studio (Orion, since deceased and then resurrected). The mission here for director Ridley Scott was to teach an old ghoul new tricks – which he does, with some help from the cast, another especially gruesome Thomas Harris novel, and greater gore than the earlier movie indulged.

Having escaped prison in the last film, Lecter is a persistent bad memory for FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore). After a botched D.C. drug, Starling’s public disgrace prompts a taunting letter from Lecter, long incognito in Florence, Italy, as a Renaissance scholar. Their long-distance relationship gets the attention of the only victim to survive one of Doctor Lecter’s attacks, hideously disfigured crippled tycoon Mason Verger (an unbilled Gary Oldman in skull-like makeup and an accent not far removed from the one he used in The Fi5th Element). Verger has been waiting to seize Lecter for gruesome private revenge involving a herd of ferocious, flesh-eating swine beIng secretly prepared in Sardinia (a detail that may be especially puzzling to all but readers of Harris’ Hannibal novel).

Scott heroically imposes some measure of order on a globetrotting, challenging narrative, yet doesn’t quite find the stable tone that Demme did. The Florentine subplot with an ill-fated Italian police inspector (Giancarlo Giannini) could have gone a slight detour into Giallo thrillers – which might not have helped affairs but would have been a bit interesting for a stylist such as Scott, coming right off his own Oscar-winner, the neo-peplum Gladiator.

The truth is there was way more riding on Hannibal than Mason Verger’s vengeance. Producer Dino De Laurentiis had famously made the very first Hannibal Lecter thriller Manhunter (from the Harris novel Red Dragon). While the Michael Mann-directed result raised some praise in the 1980s, its box-office disappointment meant that De Laurentiis passed on film rights to Harris’ Silence of the Lambs. Then he had to watch as struggling studio Orion developed that project and reaped the largesse. Considering that to have been one of the greatest missteps of his career, De Laurentiis – no, did not feed executives of Orion to wild boars at his Sardinia villa; a string of box-office failures did away with Orion in almost as ignoble a fashion – bought back rights to Hannibal the Cannibal’s subsequent literary adventures.

In making this film nought was left to chance. Thomas Harris, Steven Zaillian and aggrieved playwright David Mamet were the writers known to be involved in torturous script sessions. Various alternate endings were tried and plugged in with focus-group audiences. The novel’s subplots about Lecter’s traumatic war-refugee childhood and Verger’s past as a child abuser were jettisoned.

Famously, actress Jodie Foster refused to reprise her Silence of the Lambs role as Clarice Starling, unhappy with the character’s fate in the book (which Scott’s finale altered radically onscreen anyway, so there). So Hannibal does seem somewhat… overcooked might not be a bad metaphorical complaint.

Still, it does maintain the central drive of the thing, that Hopkins’ Lecter, wicked as he is, still remains a more charming, cultured and polite individual than those whom he slaughters (most of whom also behave abominably towards the never-less-than-admirable Clarice). He is an effective antihero who pithily sums up his credo: “Eat the rude.”

Moore bravely substitutes for the absent Foster, but it is to the hypnotically malevolent Hopkin’s that Hannibal belongs, the character getting far more screen time now than the mere eighteen or so minutes in Silence of the Lambs that made Hopkins a household name in horror circles. Ticket sales for Hannibal were bloody good enough that Red Dragon, though chronologically a prequel (with Hopkins’ character again relegated to a background role) was filmed a second time to Dino De Laurentiis specifications, in 2002.

Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:

“Led by strong performances from Hopkins, Moore and Oldman and some visually creative direction from Ridley Scott that, while sometimes lacking in restraint, remains solid throughout, Hannibal while not as strong as its predecessors, is still well worth a watch for all fans of the cultured cannibal.” Flickering Myth

” …the film never holds you in a dark thrall the way one expected it should have. What Hannibal feels like is a competent run-through of the book. Crucially though, it never grabs you with a hold in the back of the head and never lets go the way that Thomas Harris’s books do, the way that Ridley Scott’s Alien did.” Moria

“Ridley Scott’s Hannibal is a carnival geek show elevated in the direction of art. It never quite gets there, but it tries with every fiber of its craft to redeem its pulp origins, and we must give it credit for the courage of its depravity; if it proves nothing else, it proves that if a man cutting off his face and feeding it to his dogs doesn’t get the NC-17 rating for violence, nothing ever will.” Roger Ebert, February 09, 2001

Cast and characters:

Anthony Hopkins … Hannibal Lecter
Julianne Moore … Clarice Starling
Gary Oldman … Mason Verger
Ray Liotta … Paul Krendler
Frankie Faison … Nurse Barney (as Frankie R. Faison)
Giancarlo Giannini … Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi
Francesca Neri … Allegra Pazzi
Zeljko Ivanek … Doctor Cordell Doemling
Hazelle Goodman … Evelda Drumgo
David Andrews … FBI Agent Pearsall
Francis Guinan … FBI Asst. Director Noonan
James Opher … DEA Agent John Eldridge
Enrico Lo Verso … Gnocco
Ivano Marescotti … Carlo
Fabrizio Gifuni … Matteo
Alex Corrado … Piero
Marco Greco … Tommaso
Robert Rietty … Sogliato (as Robert Rietti)
Terry Serpico … Officer Bolton
Boyd Kestner … Special Agent Burke
Peter Shaw … Special Agent John Brigham
Kent Linville … Geoffrey, FBI Mail Boy
Don McManus … Asst. Mayor Benny Holcombe
Harold Ginn … Larkin Wayne, I.A.B.
Ted Koch … BATF Agent Bob Sneed
William Powell-Blair … FBI Agent (as Wm. Powell Blair II)
Aaron Craig … ‘Il Mostro’ Detective
Andrea Piedimonte Bodini … Agent Franco Benetti (as Andrea Piedimonte)
Ennio Coltorti … Ricci
Ian Iwataki … Young Boy in Plane
Mark Margolis … Perfume Expert
Ajay Naidu … Perfume Expert
Kelly Piper … Perfume Expert
Bruce MacVittie … FBI Tech with Lecter’s Letter
Giannina Facio Giannina Facio … Verger’s Fingerprint Technician
Andrew C. Boothby … Police Officer
Kenneth W. Smith … Police Sergeant
Judie Aronson … News Reporter
Tom Trigo … News Reporter
Sam Wells … News Reporter
Ricardo Miguel Young … News Reporter (as Ric Young)
Joseph M. West Jr. … News Reporter
Roberta Armani … Theatregoer
Johannes Kiebranz … Mr Konie
Bruno Lazzaretti … Dante
Danielle de Niese … Beatrice

Technical details:

131 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Box office: 

Hannibal took $351,692,268 worldwide at box offices on an estimated budget of $87 million.