Manhunter ★★★★★

On my first viewing 15 years ago, I thought this was purely an exercise in stylistics, vastly inferior to all the other Lecter Movies. But what Mann is doing here is far more interesting and personal than that. It's more emotional and immediately engaging than Red Dragon, cooler than Silence of the Lambs, less bizarrely prurient than Hannibal.

Does Brian Cox embody Lecter with the same robustness of characterization as Anthony Hopkins? Fuck no. But the movie is better because of it. This is never intended to be a story about Lecter (the word "cannibal" is uttered a handful of times, with no details provided), but rather Will Graham's gradual slide away from his peaceful life, his family, his sanity.

Mann's usual bag of tricks are here: beautiful neons, editing flourishes, synth-heavy pop songs. But the ethereal, dream-like quality of these stylistic traits heighten the story far beyond its procedural roots.

Most importantly, this film is GORGEOUS. Modernist homes stand out as white boxes against the unending pounding of the surf. Streetlights send blazing trails of white across soaking pavement. Mirrors shine dazzlingly from between dead eyelids.

A true classic.

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