Cooper’s performance is outlandishly great, but Phillippe’s knocks Breach down a peg. After establishing that Hanssen has extrasensory perception when it comes to sussing out lies, Ray allows Phillippe to lie badly—that is, to lie like an unimaginative actor who can’t help signaling the audience that his character is in a panic. Wrong, wrong, wrong: It cuts the legs out from under Cooper to make him watch such obvious dissembling and not react. Phillippe has another scene, a supposedly furtive meeting with his FBI handler (Laura Linney) in which he carries on like, well, an actor seizing the moment. Wrong, wrong, wrong: It cuts the legs out from under Linney to make her watch him emote and not say, “Keep your voice down, moron.”
Linney does fine, though. She’s such a smart actress: Her frigidity sets us up for the way the character will soften—almost break—when her quarry is in sight. As he proved in Shattered Glass, Ray has a talent for nailing the essence of an ecosystem. You watch these suspicious bureaucrats and know just what Hanssen means when he says that spies can flourish because, among intelligence agencies, “Cooperation is counter-operational.”
With Hannibal Rising, Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter completes the journey from inconceivably savage serial murderer to morally righteous avenger. It was obvious from The Silence of the Lambs that novelist Thomas Harris was beginning to like Lecter a little too much. But that was the gorgeous perversity of the thing—that Clarice, his Luke Skywalker, was learning more from Darth Vader than from Obi-Wan Kenobi. But by the time of Hannibal, Lecter was killing only the “rude”—the hypocrites, pedophiles, and scum. And now, in Hannibal Rising, the youngish Lecter kills the Nazi collaborators who also ate his little sister, and we’re meant to relish every triumphant skewering, decapitation, and mutilation. Gaspard Ulliel has a good skinny ghoulish face—he’s lit like the Joker in the less kid-friendly Batman comics. But Hannibal Rising is basically a Steven Seagal vigilante movie with a hero who eats the people he kills. At least it’s ecofriendly.