Ridley Scott's 2001 sequel to the Oscar winning The Silence Of The Lambs begins with Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins reprising the role) living in Florence, Italy where he's making a very fine living as an art curator. Not one to let go of things easily, he writes F.B.I. agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, taking over where Jodie Foster left off), who has been relegated to working a desk job after being reprimanded by her superiors. There've been a few too many bodies left in her wake, it seems, and a high ranking agent named Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) aims to keep her in her place.
But Clarice isn't the only one out to track down Lecter. One of the doctor's former patients, a child molester named Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), wants revenge. See, as part of his therapy, Lecter drugged Verger to the point where he was able to convince him to cut off his face and feed it to his dogs. As such, Verger is horribly disfigured and, obviously, blames Lecter for this. Mason is wealthy enough that he has the means to do this. Meanwhile, a cop in Florence named Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) becomes suspicious of the new art curator in town. As he starts putting together the pieces of the puzzle, he realizes he can turn over Hannibal's whereabouts to Verger and make a tidy sum. Mason, meanwhile, hopes to use Starling to help him get closer to Hannibal.
A much more over the top affair than The Silence OF The Lambs, Scott's film may at times feel like an exercise in grand guignol but it's pretty entertaining stuff. It's also surprisingly gory for a mainstream Hollywood production acted out by an A-list cast and directed by one of the biggest names in the industry. Without wanting to spoil some of the more gruesome set pieces for those who haven't seen the film, Scott isn't afraid to get bloody, though an element of dark humor running through much of the film keeps us from taking any of this all too seriously.
Hannibal is a very stylish film. Universal gave Scott a good budget to work with here, which allows the film to take advantage of some fantastic location work. The cinematography from John Mathieson, the same man who shot Gladiator and Kingdom Of Heaven for Scott, is fantastic. The camerawork is elegant and slick, the compositions and lighting are always perfect. The score from Hans Zimmer, who also collaborated with Scott on Gladiator as well as Blackhawk Down is also top notch. You can't fault the production values here.
As to the performances? Julianne Moore proves a good replacement for Jodie Foster. She's not quite as memorable in the role as her predecessor but those were big shoes to fill and she does a solid job f doing just that. Hopkins as the titular Hannibal isn't as likeable here as he is in the first movie (and he is, despite the fact that he's clearly evil, quite likeable in that movie). He's almost a supervillain at times, elevated to diabolical status by having his freedom. In the first film, he was a captive and therefore restrained, here he has no such limitations and the script really lets Hopkins run with it, which he does. Hopkins is good in the part. If there are issues with the script and with the way that the character is allowed to run rampant, so be it, but it isn't the fault of the acting. Hannibal is more interesting as a captive than a predator.
Supporting work here is also solid. Ray Liotta is a lot of fun to watch as Clarice's pain in the ass superior while a heavily made up Gary Oldman, pretty much unrecognizable here, is fantastic in a completely bizarre role. He's perfect in the part, a great villain and immensely entertaining in this
Taken from a ‘brand new 4K restoration by Cinematographer John Mathieson', the AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer looks great. Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented on a 50GB disc, the image is clean, colorful and very nicely detailed. Black levels are strong and there is virtually no print damage here to note at all. The image is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems, retaining the expected amount of film grain. Skin tones look nice, color reproduction is great. There is a tiny bit of black crush noticeable in a few spots if you're looking for it but otherwise, no complains here. This looks a lot better than the old Blu-ray release from MGM.
DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in the film's native English. The 5.1 mix is the way to go if you've got the setup for it. The score in particular sounds very good, nice and tight with some impressive channel separation throughout. Sound effects and dialogue are also nicely placed throughout the mix, which is clean and well balanced, free of any audible hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Carried over from the past editions is the audio commentary by director Ridley Scott. It's a good track that finds the director covering all of the bases: casting the film, the locations, the source material that was adapted into the film, the effects work, the cinematography and quite a bit more. If you haven't heard this before on either the older DVD or Blu-ray releases and you want to know more about the film and Scott's creative process, this is a good way to do just that.
Also included on the disc is Breaking The Silence which is a selection of five unique ‘making-of' Hannibal sequences running seventy-fives combined minutes. The five aspects of the production that are covered here are: development, production, make-up effects, music and reaction. Throughout this piece we get a very detailed look at the making of the film, as well as interviews with producer Dino De Laurentis, Ridley Scott, Moore and Hopkins. The disc also holds the forty-eight-minute Anatomy Of A Shoot-Out featurette which is a ‘five-angle breakdown' of the "Fish Market" scene that goes into a whole lot of detail about how this sequence was put together.
On top of that we get the eight-minute Ridleygrams: A Featurette On The Art Of Storyboarding, a seven-minute exploration of the film's opening titles, thirty-three-minutes of deleted and alternate scenes available with and without commentary from Scott, the film's six-minute alternate ending available with optional commentary from Scott, nineteen separate TV spots, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Kino has also included bonus trailers for White Squall, Nixon and When Eight Bells Toll. There isn't much in the way of new extras here and since most of it originates on the old DVD release the bulk of it is in standard definition, but the material itself is very good.
Hannibal may be a very different film than its predecessor and it isn't a perfect picture by any stretch, but it is a very entertaining film that benefits from excellent production values and some top-quality performances from its principal cast. Kino has done a very nice job bringing it to Blu-ray. The disc has some great extras on it and the presentation is very strong. Highly recommended.