You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hannibal Rising

A killer career is launched in "Hannibal Rising," which explains how the character became the cunning cannibal of later repute. This upmarket slasher is a well-produced but slow-moving thriller that never quite roars to life.

Hannibal Lecter - Gaspard Ulliel Lady Murasaki - Gong Li Grutas - Rhys Ifans Kolnas - Kevin McKidd Inspector Popil - Dominic West Dortlich - Richard Brake Milko - Stephen Walters Grentz - Ivan Marevich

A killer career is launched in “Hannibal Rising,” which explains how the character most famously played by Anthony Hopkins became the cunning cannibal of later repute. With first-time scenarist Thomas Harris adapting his own novel, and “Girl With a Pearl Earring’s” Peter Webber the somewhat unlikely directorial choice, this upmarket slasher is a well-produced but slow-moving thriller that never quite roars to life. Biz in most territories should be at least initially robust, though brand recognition will probably carry pic into midrange numbers of “Red Dragon” as opposed to the B.O. bonanzas of superior “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal.”

The novel, published just two months ago, was derided by many as a quickie screenplay cash-in beneath the author’s usual standards. There were also complaints that in providing a victim-scenario background to account for Hannibal Lecter’s mayhem, Harris had replaced his mystery with pop-psych banality.

Latter may remain a problem for those who view Lecter as some sort of sacred screen text (bloggers, start your engines), but on its own terms this story works better on celluloid than it did on the page. Nonetheless, “Rising” emerges as a bit of a wet fuse, never especially involving or suspenseful.

In 1944 Lithuania, the aristocratic Lecter clan abandon their castle to Nazi invaders, but their hunting-lodge refuge gets caught in the crossfire between Allies and Axis. Everyone is killed save young Hannibal (Aaron Thomas) and sister Mischa (Helena-Lia Tachovska), who’s little more than a toddler.

Their lot grows yea worse when local hooligans led by Grutas (Rhys Ifans) show up. They can’t leave for fear of being shot as looters; it’s winter, and game and food are scarce. “We eat or die,” Grutas snarls, pinching Mischa’s plump cheeks very much like the witch did Gretel’s.

Eight years later, now-teenaged Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel, “A Very Long Engagement”) is back at the castle — albeit as a ward of the state, his ancestral home now a Soviet orphanage. He refuses to speak, but makes his violent temper felt in other ways. After making sure a mean senior boy gets a nasty comeuppance, he runs away, heading west.

At last he arrives in rural France, where his uncle’s Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li), takes him in. Her kindness gets him to speak again, and her convenient supply of inherited samurai swords provides one form of training for future tasks. Others are supplied by a chef’s gastronomical advice, and by the intimate knowledge of other fleshy substances Hannibal acquires as a medical student.

After dispatching a loutish butcher (Charles Maquignon) who’d insulted Lady Murasaki, Hannibal moves with her to Paris and begins his real course of study: tracking down the men who “ate my sister.” This first requires a trip back to Lithuania, where he discovers most of the culprits are now handily located back in France.

The trail of severed heads (another samurai tip) that begins to pile up attracts Inspector Popil (Dominic West), a war-crimes investigator aware that these new victims were themselves thieves, murderers and Nazi collaborators. Hannibal’s quarry also become aware of his intentions, taking preventative measures that eventually include kidnapping Lady Murasaki. But Hannibal is always one gory step ahead of them.

Halfway through, pic turns into the expected series of grotesque revenge killings, yet it still lacks emotional urgency and real scares — partly because the script is so patly set up to justify whatever havoc our protag wreaks. Also, Lady Murasaki and Inspector Popil make weak foils, cottoning on to Hannibal’s plans early on but only kinda-sorta trying to stop him.

Former is an especially thankless part that Gong can’t dimensionalize beyond looking weepy and lovely. Ifans gives good slimebag. And while Ulliel will no doubt peeve those looking for a junior Hopkins act-alike, he does bring intelligence and poise to a role that strays too little from one menacing, supercilious note.

Pic must be counted the least successful of the Lecter pics to date, as each prior film (even so-so “Red Dragon”) had a more distinctive, assertive tone: “Manhunter’s” eeriness, “Silence’s” taut psychodrama, “Hannibal’s” macabre Grand Guignol. Webber’s perhaps too-steady hand manages to tamp down the potential silliness in a script that’s never quite convincing and sports some clunky dialogue.

Production package is quite handsome, with a muted elegance to Ben Davis’ lensing, Allan Starski’s production design and Anna Sheppard’s costumes. Tech aspects are all first-rate.

Hannibal Rising


Production: An MGM and the Weinstein Co. release of a Dino De Laurentiis production in association with Quinta Communications and Ingenious Film Partners. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis, Tarak Ben Ammar. Executive producers, James Clayton, Duncan Reid. Co-producers, Chris Curling, Philip Roberton, Petr Moravec. Directed by Peter Webber. Screenplay, Thomas Harris, based on his book.

Crew: Camera (color), Ben Davis; editors, Pietro Scalia, Valerio Bonelli; music, Ilan Eshkeri, Shigeru Umebay Ashi; production designer, Allan Starski; art director, Nenad Pecur; set decorator, Judy Farr; costume designer, Anna Sheppard; sound (Dolby Digital), Oliver Tarney, Eddy Joseph; assistant director, Martin Sebik; casting, Leo Davis. Reviewed at AMC Metreon, San Francisco, Feb. 7, 2007. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 121 MIN.

With: Hannibal Lecter - Gaspard Ulliel Lady Murasaki - Gong Li Grutas - Rhys Ifans Kolnas - Kevin McKidd Inspector Popil - Dominic West Dortlich - Richard Brake Milko - Stephen Walters Grentz - Ivan MarevichWith: Goran Kostic, Charles Maquignon, Richard Leaf, Ingeborda Dapkunaite, Aaron Thomas, Helena-Lia Tachovska.

More Film

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

  • Ventana Sur Queer Latin Film Panel

    Ventana Sur: Panel Talks Merits, Setbacks in Latin Queer Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Four venerable professionals from the cinema world joined on Monday evening for Queer Cinema In Latin America, a frank discussion on Latin America’s role within the queer filmscape for Ventana Sur’s Industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires. Touching on advancements in character arc and notable achievements in [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez 'Absolutely' Wants to Direct Film and Television

    Jennifer Lopez epitomizes the phrase “she’s done it all” — but there’s still more that the superstar would like to do. Lopez recently directed her first music video, “Limitless,” the track featured on her new rom-com “Second Act,” and it seems the multi-hyphenate has caught the directing bug. “Absolutely, absolutely,” Lopez responded when asked by [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    Rian Johnson's Murder Mystery 'Knives Out,' Starring Daniel Craig, Set for Thanksgiving Release

    Lionsgate has bought distribution rights to Daniel Craig’s murder mystery “Knives Out” and set a Thanksgiving release date of Nov. 27. MRC financed “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson — best known for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Lionsgate will also distribute the pic worldwide. The movie came together during the Toronto International Film Festival [...]

  • The favourite Movie

    Olivia Colman to Be Honored by Palm Springs Festival for 'The Favourite'

    “The Favourite” star Olivia Colman will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award by the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The award will be presented by her co-star Emma Stone at the festival’s awards gala on Jan. 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival, now in its 30th year, runs from Jan. 3 to [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Motion Pictures Academy Announces Scientific and Technical Awards

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced nine scientific and technical achievements, represented by 27 individual recipients, to be honored at the annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation Feb. 9 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. In addition, Curtis Clark will be receiving the John A. Bonner Award for his service [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content