Joachim Jelle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before Jonathan Demme tackled the notorious Hannibal the Cannibal, Michael Mann managed to create a different yet wholly enthralling portrait of the liver-and-fava-beans eater with Brian Cox as the serial killer. But what’s so great about Manhunter – other than the fact that De Laurentiis seemingly hired Mann because his last name led directly into manhunter – is that the film doesn’t rely solely on Brian Cox’s performance. Not that Silence of the Lambs puts all its eggs in Hopkins’ basket, no not at all.
My point is that William Petersen fucking carries this movie. He wears Will Graham’s distraught demeanor to perfection, walking around looking so realistically solemn as if he has seen and experienced horrors unimaginable. And he has because his almost supernatural ability to get inside the killers’ minds is wearing on him, tearing him apart. The killer whose mind he has to enter is that of “the Tooth Fairy” played so sympathetically and menacingly by Tom Noonan. Maybe I was premature in praising Petersen as the main force because Noonan really captures that isolated, psychosexually tortured criminal. You loathe him yet you understand him, too.
Other than that, Manhunter really excels because of Mann’s production. His crisp photography booming with beautiful vistas and captivating colors is contrasted with the sterility of Leckter’s cell, though with a few abnormal colors residing there as well, triggering Petersen’s PTSD. I’m not sure Mann’s erratic play with the editing works completely as intended, but it is off-putting, to say the least. But the music, Oh God the music. Close to all the major scenes are set to these extraordinary, layered tracks and they all help convey the inner thoughts and feelings of our many troubled men.