I was a little hesitant to see this after watching the unimpressive Hannibal. Another prequel might have gone any way because the first Manhunter movie was so daring and tremendously directed by Michael Mann. Red Dragon had strong support from both its studio and its creators, especially because prequels were popular at the time of its release. However, since it was being directed by Brett Ratner, who was previously renowned for the first two Rush Hour movies, it felt like this film would have a tone that could be misleading.
Now, could this movie live up to the hoopla surrounding the original Manhunter, or would it just be another remake that felt like a creative cop-out by a studio in possession of a beloved IP?
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The Movie Review
Red Dragon is set right before the events of the world-famous The Silence of the Lambs. The film depicts a psychotic serial murderer who is on a killing rampage against entire families every month on the night of the full moon.
FBI agent Jack Crawford asks none other than retired FBI agent Will Graham to assist in finding the murderer. After suffering a serious injury while apprehending the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter, Graham had previously left the FBI. However, Graham is now back in action, and to understand the mindset of the serial killer he is going up against, Graham must now work with his old acquaintance Hannibal Lecter to see if he can offer any sort of support on the terrifying case.
To truly appreciate the film on its own terms, one must first get over the Anthony Hopkins factors. Lecter is a supporting figure in this film, nothing more and nothing less. Is he important to the film’s plot? Yes! However, he remains in second place to Fiennes’ insane serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, widely known as The Tooth Fairy, and Norton’s disturbed but talented FBI agent Will Graham.
Using the elements that made Harris’ book such a page-turning hit, Ratner and Tally smartly used them to create Red Dragon, which is first and foremost a crackling good old detective narrative with thrilling suspense and an agonizing atmosphere.
They have naturally added their own elements, like as the pre-credit sequence starring Lecter and Graham. However, it is an extremely faithful adaptation of a suspenseful and chill-inducing tale. Adding to this tale is a cast of characters that are genuinely great. Fiennes’ Tooth Fairy is a showstopper, and his character arc from beginning to end is genuinely nerve-wracking as it connects with Graham’s and turns melancholic to end with a satisfying conclusion.
Graham is a character who Edward Norton underplays well; unable to avoid the work that endangers his family, he becomes an easy protagonist to like as things start to go south.
Ralph Fiennes and his piercing blue eyes avoid becoming a Joker rip-off, he emanates menace without turning into a giggling caricature. Philip Seymour Hoffman also does a fantastic job, and Harvey Keitel gives a stern performance as Jack Crawford. However, Emily Watson as the blind Reba turns arguably the best performance, one that is regrettably underappreciated.
Watson is given the challenging role of Reba, who serves as a romantic and redemptive counterpoint to Dolarhyde’s divided personality. She pulls it off so well, that I simply lack the words to express it.
When it comes to the cinematography, however, the film is not too particularly great. Sure, it manages to convey a dark atmosphere and a moody tension to it, but it lacks in creating unique camera work and lighting that befit such a film. Visually it does manage to convey a lot of the narrative, but not the atmosphere that is required.
Sound and Music
When you have a legend such as Danny Elfman on the composing seat, you simply cannot go wrong with the soundtrack. Red Dragon not only has a great soundtrack, but it’s a soundtrack that elevates the film in every single way.
Red Dragon does an excellent job of living up to its horrifying beginnings and provides us a fantastic view of a confined form of evil, albeit not as beautifully as The Silence of the Lambs. Red Dragon might be Brett Ratner’s best film, it is captivating because it takes you into a world where you believe you can predict something before it shows you something you’ve never seen before.
- An enthralling retelling of a masterful book
- Fantastic cast, with standout performances
- Great music that elevates the film
- The film has great pacing despite its run time mainly consisting of conversations
- The film’s visuals are not too good, lacking in camerawork and lighting