|80's thrillers don't come much better|
I should start this review by stating that I am a big fan of almost all of Michael Mann's work as a director and count him as possible my favourite director, or at least in the top two. Manhunter is a film I first saw many years ago one night while I should have been revising for my A levels, and it has remained a favourite since. It has the distinction of being the first adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel involving Hannibal Lektor that is mostly forgotten about when compared to its more well known counter parts, but this film remains in my mind the most creepy.
The story follows Will Graham, an FBI profiler who retired after being injured while working on his last case, as he is brought back in to help solve the murders of two families by a killer known as the Tooth Fairy. Now back with his old colleagues Graham must get back into the mind set of a killer to help solve the case before he can strike again, but this will mean speaking to the man that injured him, the chilling Doctor Lektor.
There is a lot to like about the film but the reason it sticks in the mind is there are some very strong performances on show. I thought William Peterson does a superb job in the role of Will Graham, a role that gives a glimpse of his future role in CSI, and his performance is enthralling to watch as the character slowly gets deeper into the mind of a killer. The two main standouts however, come in the form of the always great Brian Cox as Hannibal Lektor and Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde. Cox's performance is destined to be compared to the definitive take on the character by Anthony Hopkins but rather than playing the character as over the top, here Cox plays the role cold and calculating with almost no warmth or compassion and this seems to make the character infinitely more creepy. As for Noonan he gets the job of portraying the genuinely chilling villain so well that you can never warm to the character on screen. If you compare it to Ralph Finnes in Red Dragon, then Noonan is in a different league simply because he is a creepy looking guy.
The film is well directed and is what you expect to see from early work of Michael Mann, who at the time was already thinking about and gearing up for Heat. The style is slick and engaging, allowing the viewer to connect to the characters as well as giving some impressive visuals. The ones that stick in the mind are the scenes with Lektor where the sparse design and look draw the eye to the subject, here the characters, but keep the viewer interested in the frame. This one of the reasons I rate Mann so highly and is evident in all his later work but much more refined as opposed to the more raw style.
The final point I have to make is concerning the soundtrack. Now I am not going to say that it is not showing its age but a funny thing happened when I watched it again last week, and that was that the music which is firmly a product of the eighties was not a obtrusive as it was when I saw this in the nineties. I think this is because I no longer look at the film as a modern film but as an eighties set period piece, that and possibly the Drive soundtrack has made synth not quite so dated. I would even go so far as to say that for setting the mood it works perfectly with the film.
If I have to find a downside to the film I would have to say that some parts are looking a little shabby, especially some of the night scenes but this is likely due to the quality of the print and the technology available. The action sequences are a little lacking, more so when compared to Mann's later work but you can see the beginnings of what he is capable of. Finally the only other thing to mention is that no matter how much nostalgia you have for the time, the fashions still look hideous and are thus a bit distracting!
In conclusion Manhunter is a quality thriller that holds up well and is just as good viewing now as it was years ago. If you are looking a good crime drama with strong performances then this is well worth your time.
|review||80's thrillers don't come much better (4 out of 5)||MrWright|
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