Director: Michael Mann
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group
Synopsis: FBI profiler Will Graham is pulled back into the dark world of forensic profiling by his old boss to hunt a killer nicknamed the “Tooth Fairy.” When the investigation hits a dead end, Graham turns to the one man who could help him: the last man he caught.
Overview: Amidst the outpour of negative reactions to Michael Mann’s tech thriller Blackhat, I thought it would be a good time to look back at one of Mann’s earlier projects: Manhunter. The film is the second adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel and the first film to feature the now iconic character of Hannibal Lecter – changed to Lecktor here for unknown reasons. (I’m convinced it was a spelling error as Lecter’s name is spelled differently again as Lector on the soundtrack.) The popularity of Silence of the Lambs overshadows this unique approach to the mythos of Hannibal Lecter. I will not stand for this. I’m not saying Manhunter is necessarily a better movie than Silence; Although, I do prefer it. Why? The Mann-liness of the material. (I’m not even sorry about this joke.)
Mann speaks fluent eye-candy. His filmography is littered with beautiful scenery, but Manhunter is downright euphoric, with an atmosphere more interested in stylistic integrity than thrills. Mann’s eye for aesthetically pleasing visuals is present from the opening scene as the Tooth Fairy comes upon his next victims. Beyond that, each scene is practically color coded for the audience. Blue implies a relaxed environment; white involves isolation or a disturbing discovery; greens and purples are meant to throw the audience off balance.
Complementing the stunning visuals is the traditional ’80s score composed of synthesizers and head trips. The sound seduces you into following Will Graham down the psychological rabbit hole he finds himself in. “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd serves as the biggest music influence. So much so that any Pink Floyd song would fit comfortably with the aesthetic Mann created when adapting Harris’ novel. Manhunter is very much a piece of the past. The editing combination of music and visuals tell a story that wouldn’t even be attempted nowadays (look to Red Dragon for the difference in style).
Unlike Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter is not dependent on Hannibal Lecktor. Brian Cox gives a performance just as broad as Anthony Hopkins but of a different caliber. Hopkins receives all the praise post Silence, Hannibal, and Red Dragon; Cox brings an even less nuanced performance but just as unsettling. Hopkins is opera. Cox is psychedelic rock. The film is far less interested in the relationship between Graham and Lecktor, giving them minimal screen time together. There’s never an exploration of the distorted rivalry and fascination the two men share with one another. Hardcore fans of the grander Hannibal Lecter may be disappointed in this approach, but you could watch NBC’s Hannibal to satisfy your craving of Graham and Lecter’s ever-impulsive, fucked up relationship.
I’ve yet to see Blackhat to determine whether or not public opinion is right or wrong (you guys liked Avatar once). If Mann is able to bring his Mannly style to the proceedings of a dumb, goofy techno thriller, I’ll gladly pay to see it join my film library. For now, I’ll continue appreciating the beautiful plunge into the world of Michael Mann with Manhunter.