Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
All Michael Mann movies I have seen so far are stylish as hell and have a distinct flair that makes them easily recognizable as his work. “Manhunter”, the first film adaptation of Thomas Harris´ novel “Red Dragon”, is no exception.
The mise en scène is definitely the highlight of the film. The most striking and memorable aspect of it is the use of lighting as well as different color cues and tints to evoke different moods in the audience. Especially the colors blue, green, and white are dominant. Other notable aspects of the visual style are the inventive camerawork including masterful framing as well as interesting angles/perspectives, great editing, and fascinating set design. Furthermore, the movie has a fantastic synth score.
Other strengths of the film include the unsettling and immersive atmosphere, the fleshed-out characters, the climactic shootout, and the authentic procedural aspects with a strong focus on criminal psychology and forensic science. The actual plot is not that disturbing, exciting, or memorable, though, especially when compared with genre kings such as “Seven” or “The Silence of the Lambs”.
The acting is more than solid, though not mindblowing either. William Petersen does a good job as the brooding, weary profiler Will Graham, who gazed into the abyss of the criminal mind a bit too long (it begins to gaze back into him), but the standout is Tom Noonan as the repulsive, pitiful, and conflicted serial killer Francis Dollarhyde a.k.a the Tooth Fairy. Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter also leaves his mark, but he can´t use his little screen time as effectively as Anthony Hopkins did with his iconic Oscar winning performance (Hopkins also only had 16 minutes).
While acting and plot don´t reach the heights of “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Manhunter” is a stylish and suspenseful crime thriller that fans of the genre should check out.