Hannibal Rising is one of those movies you look at and are going to be analyzing every detail or watching it for the true horror it is. Of course, nothing will compare to the work Sir Anthony Hopkins put on in the other three films in the series, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon. But, that's what made Hopkins one of Hollywood's greatest actors in history.
Hannibal Rising tells the story of how Hannibal Lecter became the menacing killer he was. Directed by Peter Webber, the film starts out in Lithuania during World War II; Hannibal is just a young boy. His family is forced to leave their house and flee the Russian Army after being persecuted for being Jewish.
They move into a small cottage in the woods; unfortunately, the Russians find them, and kill his parents - but sparing him and his sister, Mischa. Unfortunately, Mischa got sick, and when the soldiers have no other resource for food, they realize their only way of survival is by eating her. Hannibal witnessed the horror of their ruthless ways, gnashing their teeth into the skin; his mind became warped, he was turning into a different person.
But he also knew he was next on the food chain - and he took a 'bite out of crime' as they say. He took the law into his own hands - or mouth. After escaping the clutches of the Russian soldiers, it was Hannibal's fate to seek revenge on the men who killed his family.
Gaspard Ulliel plays Hannibal as a teenager; he's living at a boarding school, at his old house. He's having horrible nightmares every night of what he witnessed with Mischa as a child. He can't take it anymore, and leaves the school to find a cousin who married into the family, Lady Murasaki Shikibu, played by Gong Li. She is of Japanese royalty, befriends Hannibal, takes him in, and shows him a way of controlling his anger, controlling his nightmares.
Of course, nothing will be able to stop Hannibal's rage. That shows the first time someone mistreats Lady Murasaki at a market; not being able to control his anger, he beats down the man in broad daylight. And once he is unleashed, nothing is going to keep him from getting that revenge.
Gaspard really expresses the rage Hannibal has; you can tell he wanted to expose the anger, expose the vulnerability, express those torturous feelings. From that first moment in the market, the hunt is on for the five men who brutally murdered his parents and his sister.
Even when speaking to Gaspard, you know he was passionate about taking on such a project of this scale; trying to define who the legend became. It was up to him to really put on that face, and take on the persona of Hannibal Lecter - and he did.
There are scenes in the film that are so brutal on screen, it's bone chilling. Hannibal Rising is sure to have you running from your seat never wanting to eat for a long time. The chase is thrilling, the pursuit is unbearable to watch; Hannibal finds these men, and tortures them in ways that are unimaginable to a human. He travels through Europe to find who these men are, and where they'll be; he stopped at nothing to complete his mission.
Gong Li's performance is also one not to look away from; she embodies beauty, from her sleek, shiny, and crazy sexy leather motorcycle outfit to her sleek and sexy nightgowns, she steals her scenes with not only her visual presence, but her acting - even if she's not saying anything. Just her body language alone says what she means; she tries to be the reason behind Hannibal's acts, but after trying for so long, she realizes she can't stop his quest.
There is one scene in this movie where you see Gaspard turn into Hannibal Lecter - into that cannibal we know, that icon. Hannibal Rising will keep you wanting more.