As war rages in Lithuania, the Lecter family is killed, but for 8 year old Hannibal and his little sister Mischa. But the starving brutes who take over their house kill Mischa and almost kill Hannibal, who survives to live in an orphanage, mute after the shock of his trauma. As a teenager, Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) escapes to the West, making his way to the outskirts of Paris, where an uncle lives in a grand mansion. His uncle is dead, but his widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) takes him in and supports him. Hannibal continually tormented by nightmares of his sister's fate, is a bright medical student but he soon begins to seek revenge on the men who killed Mischa, and discovers his own taste for human flesh.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This horribly ill-conceived project is fake from start to finish, without a moment recognisable as real, and the story is often so badly told as to be laughable. Gaspard Ulliel's character is unconvincing, his journey full of holes and there are more questions than answers in this, the latest entry in the 'beginning of' genre, which tries to cash in on a popular franchise.
Apart from the ill-conceived notion of creating a back story for a fictional character whose essence is the appeal, not any silly supposition about what made him the way he is, the film fails the simplest tests of credibility and continuity.
The cast is a mix of English, French and Serbian (and a few other nationalities) and to imply the various countries of the settings as we go, everyone speaks English but with an (awfully contrived) accent that is intended to signal they are actually speaking their mother tongue. In any case Gaspard Ulliel is miserably miscast as young Hannibal - but then everyone would be. Gong Li is a trophy for the marquee, and her agents should be fired for letting her take the role, a vapid and silly character that is never real.
The baddies are nasty, and even Gong Li's Lady Murasaki is morally compromised, leaving us with a strange assortment of killers and sadists with whom to spend two hours while the filmmakers try to pin Hannibal Lecter's evil genius onto some hapless, gormless idiots who survived the war but not themselves. If you promise not to make me see it again I'll find one good thing to say about Hannibal Rising: Ben Davis' cinematography. What a disappointing film from the man who directed Girl With A Pearl Earring.
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HANNIBAL RISING (MA)
CAST: Gaspard Ulliel, Rhys Ifans, Gong Li, Dominic West, Aaron Thomas, Kevin McKidd, Richard Brake, Helena Lia Tachovska,
PRODUCER: Tarak Ben Ammar, Dino De Laurentiis, Martha Schumacher
DIRECTOR: Peter Webber
SCRIPT: Thomas Harris (novel by Thomas Harris)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Davis
EDITOR: Allan Starski
MUSIC: Ilan Eshkeri, Shigeru Umebayashi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Starski
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 8, 2007