Matthew Noble’s review published on Letterboxd:
JMN's Fuzzball Marathon:
Day #26, Film #2 - Manhunter (1986)
"lf one does what God does enough times, one will become as God is."
Case report: A retired FBI profiler resumes his service in order to catch a deranged serial killer.
Exhibit A: the trailer.
Arresting officer: William Petersen stars as FBI profiler Will Graham.
Verdict: Now that I've been reacquainted with the Michael Mann aesthetic through Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A., it's time to discuss the first of three of Mann's films to be featured in the Fuzzball Marathon: Manhunter, which is also the cinematic debut of one Dr Hannibal Lecter (though here it's spelt Lecktor).
Mann's stylised direction might seem an odd fit with the twisted world of Thomas Harris' novels, yet it works surprisingly well in the context of the film. With its slow burn pacing and focus on character, Manhunter is almost an anomaly of a thriller. Yet Mann ensures that every frame is dripping with atmosphere, creating an unsettling yet dreamlike environment for the psychologically unbalanced characters to inhabit. There's also brilliant use of colour: love scenes are tinted blue, tense ones are green or red, and so on. In a brilliant example, when Graham goes to visit Hannibal Lecktor, he is practically engulfed in the white void of Lecktor's prison, only regaining his composure when he sees the green grass outside the building. It's beautiful, mesmerising stuff.
As for the cast of Manhunter, they're terrific: William Petersen is even better here than he was in To Live and Die in L.A., playing another character who is almost undone by his obsession; Tom Noonan is horrifying yet human as Francis Dollarhyde, the infamous 'Tooth Fairy'; and there are memorable supporting roles for actors like Dennis Farina and Stephen Lang. And while Brian Cox isn't nearly as memorable in the role of Hannibal as Anthony Hopkins would become, he still acquits himself well as the urbane monster.
Exhibit B: oh, and the soundtrack is pretty good, too.
Regardless of the Hannibal Lector movies that came after it, Manhunter remains a haunting experience, and an affecting piece of filmmaking. It's one of my favourite Michael Mann movies to date, and another fantastic instalment in this marathon.
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