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NOTE: The biggest spoiler of them all is that the ending isn't nearly as bad as all the hype surrounding it. In fact, I was a little dissapointed that it wasn't very graphic. Geez, what kind of a person does that make me?
The movie begins as we see Mason Verger, (Gary Oldman) a grotesque man in a wheelchair questioning another man about what he knows of the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice. The guy being questioned was an employee years ago at the asylum. After answering what he knows, the old employee gives Verger a box and says, "$250,000." Verger looks into the box and immediately asks his assistant to write up a check. Inside the box... the mask that Hannibal wore while incarcerated. Seems that this guy is making quite a living selling Hannibal merchandise.
Next we see FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore). She is now a 10 year veteran and is leading group of agents into a big bust. She takes control of the mission over a Washington DC police officer and he's a bit upset at it. When Clarice decides the mission won't work, she calls off her men but the DC policeman decides to continue anyway. All hell breaks loose resulting in a few agents being killed and Clarice holding a gun on her female target while she's holding a baby. The lady pulls a gun and Clarice guns her down.
She is reprimanded and is assigned to desk jobs.
Verger gets in touch with Clarice because he is absolutely obsessed with Hannibal. Years earlier Verger was a child molester and Hannibal was his psychiatrist. Hannibal drugged him and convinced him to rip off his face and feed it to the dogs. He now is completely disfigured, has no lips or eyelids and looks more like Jim Carey's "Fire Marshall Bill." He is in a wheelchair and has an assistant that tends to all his needs. He has spent the last dozen years planning his revenge.
Clarice is sent a letter from Hannibal because he feels bad for her situation. Suddenly, she is on his case again. The crime lab can't determine where the letter came from. Next we see Clarice at a perfume company and their experts are smelling the letter. They decide the person that wrote the letter was wearing a special kind of hand cream that could only be sold in a few countries.
Meanwhile, Hannibal is the new curator at an art museum in Italy. The old curator disappeared mysteriously and Giancarlo Giannini is the detective on the case.
Clarice asks the Italian police to send her a security tape from an exclusive store that sells the rare hand cream. Giancarlo sees the tape and notices Hannibal and asks the guy mailing it where it's going. He tells him it's going to the FBI.
Giancarlo goes home and logs onto the FBI web site and discovers his new art curator is actually Hannibal Lector of the FBI's 10 most wanted. He decides to turn Lector in himself to the highest bidder, who happens to be Mason Verger. Verger is offering 3 million dollars to whomever can bring him Lector.
Clarice checks on who has been accessing the FBI website and realizes that it's Giancarlo. She figures out what he's up to and calls him to warn him not to even think about turning him in for a reward because Hannibal is too dangerous. He hangs up on her.
Verger calls his henchmen in Italy and they prepare to capture Hannibal after an art lecture one night at the gallery. Giancarlo is there setting the trap and asks Hannibal to go out for a drink after the lecture. As they are preparing to leave, Hannibal grabs and drugs Giancarlo and the next thing we know is that he is tied up with a noose around his neck, on a balcony overlooking a busy Italian courtyard. The phone in his pocket rings again but since he's tied up he can't get it. Hannibal answers but before he can say anything Clarice, thinking she's talking to Giancarlo, pleads with him not to try capturing Hannibal by himself.
Hannibal answers... "Hello Clarice" (oooooooohhhh)
Next thing we know, Hannibal cuts open Giancarlo's abdomen, spilling guts and bowels everywhere and tosses him over the balcony to hang. The same thing had happened to Giancarlo's ancestors (long story, don't want to get into it).
Hannibal escapes to the US.
Verger is pretty upset that he failed to capture Hannibal but he has another plan. He pays Ray Liotta $500,000 to plant a postcard that was supposed to come from Hannibal into Clarice's possession. For withholding this information, Clarice is suspended from the force. Verger knows that Hannibal will contact Clarice once again.
The next day, Hannibal calls Clarice and has her drive to town, all the while talking to each other on cellphones. She is being followed by more of Verger's henchmen. Just before she finally finds Hannibal, the henchmen capture him and drag him off to Verger's mansion.
The FBI go to the mansion but find nothing. Clarice goes there also (against orders) but she goes to an old farmhouse, way in the back of the property. There she finds a bunch of wild boars that have been trained to eat people whenever they hear screaming. The plan is to lower Hannibal just enough so they only eat his feet. After seven hours of torture, they will lower the rest of him.
With the boars still caged up, they lower Lector into the pit. Clarice enters and orders them to stop. A gunfight occurs and Clarice kills the two of the henchmen. As she's untying Hannibal, more henchmen arrive and after a few gunshots they fall into the pit as well. Clarice is shot and falls to the ground The wild boars break free and start devouring the henchmen. Hannibal stands in the middle of them all, holding Clarice in his arms but the pigs don't harm him.
Finally, Verger arrives to watch the torture begin but is shocked to find what's going on. Hannibal, through some sort of weird mental power, convinces Verger's assistant to toss Verger into the pit. He does and Verger is eaten by the boars also. Hannibal carries an unconscious Clarice to safety
We then see Liotta coming home and upon looking in the kitchen finds Hannibal instantly drugs him with the same stuff he used on Giancarlo. Out come some medical tools that Hannibal stole from the morgue earlier.
When Clarice wakes up, she has been drugged and everything is a bit groggy. Her bullet wound has been mended by Hannibal and she is wearing an evening gown. She looks out the window and realizes that she is at Ray Liotta's house. She calls the police and they will be there in about 10 minutes.
She goes downstairs and Hannibal is there along with Liotta tied up at the head of the table, wearing a hat. Liotta makes a few sexist remarks to Clarice but you can tell that he's not all there. Hannibal has set up a frying pan on the table and is ready to begin cooking. He takes off Liotta's hat and we can see that his skull has been cut all around.
Hannibal lifts off the top of the skull to reveal Liotta's brain. He gives Clarice a quick lecture about the brain and cuts off a slice, tossing it into the frying pan. Liotta, still a bit loopy and unaware of what's going on says that it smells good. Hannibal feeds Liotta a piece of his own brain.
Clarice tries to attack Hannibal but is too weak and ends up in the kitchen with him. As they are up agianst the fridge, Hannibal leans into her and tells her about how badly the FBI has treated her. Next thing we hear is the click of handcuffs. Clarice has handcuffed Hannibal's wrist to hers.
In the distance we hear the police helicopter getting closer. Hannibal grabs a big knife to chop off Clarice's hand so he can free himself. He tells her that this is really going to hurt. Down goes the knife with a big thud and Clarice screams.
The next scene is Clarice running down to the lake to see where Hannibal went. The police arrive and not knowing who she is, ask her to raise her hands. She raises both hands, still intact.
The final scene shows Hannibal sitting in a plane flying away. His arm is in a sling so I guess we must assume that he cut off his own hand, sparing Clarice. Seated next to him is a young boy, about 10 years old. Hannibal looks at his meal the plane has given him. The young boy looks at Hannibal's plate and tells him he doesn't like any of it. Hannibal agrees and says that's why he always brings along some food of his own. He opens up a container that has a chunk of brain in it. The young boy says that it looks good and Hannibal feeds him some.
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