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Movie Reviews: Review and Synopsis Hollywood Movie: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American psychological horror film directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Ted Tally, adapted from Thomas Harris' 1988 novel. It stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee who is hunting a serial killer, "Buffalo Bill" (Ted Levine), who skins his female victims. To catch him, she seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. The film also features performances from Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, and Kasi Lemmons.

The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and grossed $272.7 million worldwide on a $19 million budget, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing film of 1991 worldwide. It premiered at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear, while Demme received the Silver Bear for Best Director. 

It became the third and last film (the other two being 1934's It Happened One Night and 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) to win Academy Awards in all the major five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is also the only Best Picture winner widely considered a horror film, and one of only six horror films to have been nominated in the category with The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Sixth Sense (1999), Black Swan (2010), and Get Out (2017).

The Silence of the Lambs is regularly cited by critics, film directors, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films. In 2018, Empire ranked it 48th on its list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. The American Film Institute ranked it the fifth-greatest and most influential thriller film while Starling and Lecter were ranked among the greatest film heroines and villains. The film is considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the U.S. Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2011. A sequel, Hannibal, was released in 2001, followed by the prequels Red Dragon (2002) and Hannibal Rising (2007).

Movie Reviews: Review and Synopsis Hollywood Movie: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Synopsis The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

In 1990, Clarice Starling is pulled from her FBI training at the Quantico, Virginia FBI Academy by Jack Crawford of the Bureau's Behavioral Science Unit. He assigns her to interview Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer. Crawford believes Lecter's insight could prove useful in the pursuit of a psychopath serial killer nicknamed "Buffalo Bill", who kills young women and removes their skin from their bodies.

At the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Dr. Frederick Chilton makes a crude pass at Starling before he escorts her to Lecter's cell. Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling's interviewing and rebuffs her. As she is leaving, a prisoner named Miggs flicks semen at her. Lecter, who considers this an "unspeakably ugly" act, calls Starling back and tells her to seek out his old patient. 

This leads her to a storage facility, where she discovers a jar containing a man's severed head. She returns to Lecter, who says the man is linked to Buffalo Bill. He offers to profile Buffalo Bill on the condition he is transferred away from Chilton, whom he detests. Another Buffalo Bill victim is found with a death's head moth lodged in her throat.

Buffalo Bill abducts Catherine Martin, the daughter of a United States senator. Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Lecter a fake deal, promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps them capture Buffalo Bill and rescue Catherine. Instead, Lecter demands a quid pro quo from Starling, offering clues about Buffalo Bill in exchange for personal information. 

Starling tells Lecter about her father's murder when she was ten years old. Chilton secretly records the conversation and reveals Starling's deceit to Lecter before offering him a different deal. Lecter agrees and is flown to Memphis, where he meets and torments Senator Martin, then gives her false information on Buffalo Bill, including that his name is "Louis Friend".

Starling figures out that "Louis Friend" is an anagram of "iron sulfide"—fool's gold. She visits Lecter, who is now imprisoned in a cell in a Tennessee courthouse, and requests the truth. Lecter says all the information she needs is contained in the Buffalo Bill case file, then insists on continuing their quid pro quo. She recounts a traumatic childhood incident of hearing spring lambs being slaughtered on a relative's Montana farm. 

Lecter speculates that Starling hopes that saving Catherine will end the recurring nightmares she has of lambs screaming. Lecter returns the Buffalo Bill case files to Starling as Chilton arrives and has the police escort her from the building. Later that evening, Lecter kills his guards (one of them is graphically disemboweled), escapes from his cell, and disappears.

Starling analyzes Lecter's file annotations and figures out that Buffalo Bill knew his first victim, Frederika Bimmel. Starling travels to her Ohio hometown and discovers both she and Buffalo Bill were tailors. At Frederika's home, she notices unfinished dresses and dress patterns identical to the patches of skin removed from the victims. She phones Crawford and says Buffalo Bill is making a "suit" with human skin. Crawford is already en route to making an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter's notes with hospital archives and finding a man named Jame Gumb. 

Gumb smuggled death's head moths into the U.S. and was refused a sex-change operation, mistakenly believing he was transsexual. Starling continues interviewing Frederika's friends while Crawford and an FBI HRT storm Gumb's address in Illinois, finding the house empty. Meanwhile, Starling goes to interview another person who knew Frederika. 

At the house, she meets "Jack Gordon", but realizes he is Gumb after spotting a death's head moth flying loose. She pursues him into a cavernous basement and finds Catherine trapped in a dry well. In a dark room, Gumb stalks Starling with night-vision goggles but reveals himself by cocking his revolver. Starling reacts quickly and shoots Gumb dead.

At the FBI Academy graduation party, Starling receives a phone call from Lecter, who is at a Bimini airport. He assures her that he has no intention of pursuing her and requests that she return the favor, which she says she cannot. Lecter subsequently hangs up the phone because he is "having an old friend for dinner." He trails a newly arrived Chilton into the crowd.

Cast The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Masha Skorobogatov as young Clarice
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford
Ted Levine as Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb
Anthony Heald as Dr. Frederick Chilton
Brooke Smith as Catherine Martin
Diane Baker as U.S. Senator Ruth Martin
Kasi Lemmons as Ardelia Mapp
Frankie Faison as Barney Matthews
Tracey Walter as Lamar
Charles Napier as Lt. Boyle
Danny Darst as Sgt. Tate
Alex Coleman as Sgt. Jim Pembry
Dan Butler as Roden
Paul Lazar as Pilcher
Ron Vawter as Paul Krendler
Roger Corman as FBI Director Hayden Burke
George A. Romero as a jailer
Chris Isaak as SWAT Commander
Harry Northup as Mr. Bimmel
Brent Hinkley as Officer Murray
Cynthia Ettinger as Officer Jacobs

Movie Reviews The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs was a sleeper hit that gradually gained widespread success and critical acclaim. Foster, Hopkins, and Levine garnered much acclaim for their performances. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 96% of 104 film critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 8.90/10. 

The website's critical consensus reads: "Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster." Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 19 reviews from mainstream critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, specifically mentioned the "terrifying qualities" of Hannibal Lecter. Ebert later added the film to his list of The Great Movies, recognizing the film as a "horror masterpiece" alongside such classics as Nosferatu, Psycho, and Halloween. However, the film is also notable for being one of two multi-Academy Award winners (the other being Unforgiven) to get a bad review from Ebert's colleague, Gene Siskel. Writing for Chicago Tribune, Siskel said, "Foster's character, who is appealing, is dwarfed by the monsters she is after. I'd rather see her work on another case."

Box office

The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, grossing almost $14 million from 1,497 theaters over the 4-day Presidents' Day weekend, placing at number one at the US box office. It remained at number one for five weeks.

The film opened at the Odeon Leicester Square in London in June 1991 and grossed £290,936 in its opening week, which distributor Rank claimed was a world record opening week from one theatre. The following week it expanded to 281 screens and grossed £4,260,472 for the week, a UK record.

The film grossed $131 million in the United States and Canada with a total worldwide gross of $273 million. It was the fifth-highest-grossing film of 1991 worldwide.

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