Written by John Edward Betancourt
Whether we like to admit it or not, there are things in this world that we fear. Some of our fears are simple products of our imagination that we are able to dismiss with little effort, but deep down in our psyche is deep rooted fear. Things that instantly make us uncomfortable or filled with terror.
For some people spiders do the trick, others may fear the end of their lives, and sometimes it is a traumatic experience that haunts us. Regardless of what that fear may be, we all stand by a mantra, we must eventually face our fears head on in an effort to conquer them and be free. It is the concept of facing one's fear that drives the characters in the sublime horror film...Red Dragon.
The simple life has finally found its way to former FBI Agent Will Graham, after bringing down the infamous Chesapeake Ripper; Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, nearly losing his life in the process and spending time in a mental institution, Graham is finally enjoying time with his family. But his unique talent, of being able to think like the madmen he has chased has brought his old friend Jack Crawford calling. Jack needs help in finding a killer known as "The Tooth Fairy" who viciously murders families. Graham agrees but realizes this will be his toughest challenge yet. So difficult in fact, that he will require help to discover this killer's identity and the only man who can help him...is the mad man that nearly killed him...
It's almost difficult to even refer to Red Dragon as a remake because it is so vastly different from Manhunter. While these two films share the same story and characters, watching this version of the story makes for a unique and tense experience. While Manhunter is a slow burning thinker, Red Dragon is filled with tension and terror, yet it still maintains the intelligence of the novel and its predecessor.
What makes the film so smart is the wonderful way that it handles facing one's fear for both our hero and our villain. Graham obviously has to face the monster that is Lecter once again, putting aside any doubts that he may fail or relapse in the hopes of being able to save lives. This works so well courtesy of Edward Norton's performance because you can see the internal battle in every scene that he deals with Lecter. This is so neatly juxtaposed by Francis Dolarhyde, a man haunted by his past and his flaws to the point where it has driven him to murder. He fears yet embraces what he is becoming and it humanizes our villain just enough to force you to root for him to escape the darkness he carries.
Take those colorful characters and put their flaws into a tight race against the clock and you are treated with a chilling film anchored with an incredible cast, and of course as always Anthony Hopkins steals the show with another turn as Hannibal Lecter. In fact adding Hopkins to this film makes the entire franchise work on a new level, giving the continuity it needs before The Silence of the Lambs and well it's always a joy to see the only face that one can really associate with Hannibal Lecter. It should be noted as well how well he and Edward Norton work on screen, especially since Hannibal treats Graham in such different fashion than he does young Clarice Starling. Gone is the gentleness and fascination that she will be treated to in time, replaced instead with a sense of anger and vengeance all directed toward the man who put him away.
This really is a film that impressed me in theaters with its slick style and maddening pace and it truly bridges the gaps between all the films really. Watch it, be prepared to be uncomfortable and unsettled along the way and enjoy the ride while it lasts since sadly, this is the last time to date that Anthony Hopkins would treat us to another incredible performance as this legendary monster.