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NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by brentage5000 who says...
Hey everyone! It’s me, brentage2000, operating under my new name. Before I begin, let me say that this movie is definitely the best of all Hannibal Lecter movies, and is more like Silence of the Lambs than Hannibal, which makes it much better, in my opinion. The ending is especially good, and you’ll understand why when I get to it. Now, on with the spoiler…

The movie begins in 1980, at a symphony in Maryland. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is there, and he is watching one flutist in particular, who is apparently unable to play correctly. Several months later, Hannibal is having a dinner party with some friends. One of them mentions the missing flutist, and they all enjoy a laugh over their lack of regret. After the party has ended, F.B.I. Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) drops by Lecter’s house. Apparently, Lecter is helping Graham with a case involving someone called the Chesapeake Ripper. Graham theorizes that they’ve been using the wrong profile, and explains his thinking. Lecter compliments him on his deductions, and suggests that he come over in the morning so they can further discuss it. Lecter leaves to get something, and Will looks around Lecter’s office. He finds a book on anatomy, opens it to one page, and sees a word written in by Lecter – “Sweetbreads.” He realizes what this means just in time to get stabbed by Lecter. He starts to faint, but is able to fight Lecter off and shoot him. After this comes the opening credits, which is basically a montage of the press clippings made between the time of Lecter’s arrest and the time of his imprisonment (nine life sentences!). Then we cut to several years later – 1987, to be precise.

Graham is now living in Marathon, Florida with his wife Molly (Mary Louise Parker) and their son Josh (Tyler Patrick Jones).

They have a nice two-story house on the beach. One day, F.B.I. director Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) comes calling. He and Will catch up, and Will is told that his help is needed on a case. Jack asks Will how much he knows about the case already, and Will tells him what the papers have said – two families, killed a month apart in their homes. Will initially resists joining up, but Crawford tells him all he has to do is look. The killer won’t even know he exists. He agrees, and that night Will and his wife argue about it. She eventually lets Will go, and he leaves for Birmingham Alabama – the location of one of the murders.

The next scene is Will checking out the crime scene and taking notes on a recorder. He notes that the husband was killed first by having his throat cut, and the wife was shot in the chest. Then he went to the kids’ room, where he says that they were both shot, and that the killer probably used a silencer. The kids were then dragged back to the master bedroom after having pieces of mirror stuck in their eyes. Then the mother was killed, at which point she received the same mirror treatment. We then cut to Graham in a hotel room somewhere, looking at all the different pieces of evidence. Suddenly he realizes that the mirror eyes thing was so he could watch himself doing the murder, but the reason he smashed all the other mirrors was because he thinks himself disfigured or ugly. He tells some cops most of this the next day during a briefing. He also says that this will keep going on because it makes him feel like God. Later, in the Chief’s office, Graham, Crawford, and the Chief get a phone call saying that there was a partial thumbprint on the eyelid of the mother. We then see Graham and Crawford headed for a car, but they are interrupted by Freddy Lounds (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a tabloid reporter who covered Lecter’s trial. He pisses Graham off and gets thrown against a van, and then we see Graham and Crawford in a diner. Crawford suggests that they might use someone who’s helped Graham out before to catch “The Tooth Fairy.” Graham realizes he means Lecter, and reluctantly agrees to it.

The next day, Graham goes to the institution where Lecter is being held. Graham gets pestered by Dr. Frederick Chilton (Anthony Heald) about Lecter, but Graham just dismisses him. Graham goes down to Lecter’s cell and engages in a little verbal sparring with him, but eventually gives Lecter the case file and lets him look at it for an hour. When Graham returns, Lecter says that the killer is a “very shy boy” and that there will be other victims. As Graham is leaving, he is photographed by Lounds and his photographer.

The next day, Graham goes to the second victims’ house. He climbs a tree that he thinks the Tooth Fairy climbed, and while in it he finds a Chinese symbol carved into the trunk and painted red. Meanwhile, we see the Tooth Fairy working out at his house and remembering a time when his grandmother yelled at him for wetting his pants (important). Now we go back to Graham, who is told that the symbol he found is basically the mark of the Red Dragon. While thinking about this and about why the killer brought some bolt cutters with him, Crawford comes up saying that a note was found hidden in Lecter’s cell on some toilet paper. While Lecter is locked up, chained to a cart with that infamous mask on, Graham, Crawford, and their crew set to work getting a copy of the note. On it, they find a hair. The note itself is from the Tooth Fairy, and in voiceover, we hear him mocking Graham’s efforts and saying that he is becoming more. He also praises Dr. Lecter, and Graham says that this is why Lecter didn’t just throw it away. Eventually they figure out that Lecter is responding through the personals section of the Tattler, the tabloid where Freddy works. However, his response is coded using fake bible verses. While they’re working on this, a fake plumber is sent in to complain about a broken toilet in Lecter’s cell. Naturally, Lecter is suspicious, and when he sees a fake janitor come out with two rubber glove fingers sticking out of his pocket, his suspicions are confirmed. The next day, Graham goes to see Lecter again during his workout hour – basically, this means Lecter is chained to a big loop set in the ceiling and all he can do is walk in an oval.

They do some more verbal sparring, and Graham is told that the Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon is refining his methods.

The next scene introduces us to Reba (Emily Watson) a blind girl who works at a video lab with Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), a.k.a. the Tooth Fairy, a.k.a. Red Dragon. They talk, but it’s mostly Reba talking, since Dolarhyde doesn’t say much – after all, he’s a very shy boy. Today Dolarhyde wants to borrow an infrared camera for a project he’s working on at the zoo. Reba tries to hand it to him, and as she is they are interrupted by a guy Reba describes as “a walking hard-on.” He offers Reba a ride home, since it’s raining, but she says she has one. Later, while she is waiting for the bus, Dolarhyde pulls up in his van and gives her a ride home. She invites him in and offers him some coffee and a piece of blueberry pie. While serving him, she talks about how her clearest memory is of being at the zoo when she was little and seeing a cougar. After she tells him this, she tries to feel Dolarhyde’s face to see if he’s smiling, but he prevents her from doing so she doesn’t feel his harelip, which is his only real ugliness. He then assures her that he is smiling, but abruptly leaves, leaving Reba wondering what she did wrong.

While this is happening, we see an F.B.I. guy trying to decode Lecter’s message. When he does, he realizes that it is giving Dolarhyde Graham’s home address, which Lecter found out when he was supposed to be talking to his lawyer (he hung up on him and dialed into the F.B.I. switchboard). The agent calls Crawford, who calls Graham, who gets to the airport just in time to see that Molly and Josh are getting off the plane Crawford arranged for them. They are now staying at Crawford’s brothers place, where Will teaches Molly how to shoot a gun. The next day, we see Freddy in an interrogation room. Apparently he was trying to raid their files by posing as an agent. Instead of locking him up though, they give him an interview containing a bunch of false information. Unfortunately, after this is published, this gets Dolarhyde mad, and a couple nights later, he kidnaps Freddy, glues him to a wheelchair, and shows him pictures of his work. He also shows Freddy a tattoo on his back that is reminiscent of a painting Dolarhyde has of a dragon standing over a woman. By sunrise the next day, Freddy has been tortured beyond repair, and Dolarhyde tells him that there is one more thing he can do to make Freddy better understand what Dolarhyde is doing. Freddy says okay, sure. Later that morning we see a security guard for a dairy company watching the wheelchair bound Freddy roll down the street. The problem is, Freddy is on fire while doing this. That day, Graham and company are listening to a tape made by Dolarhyde that has Freddy saying that Dolarhyde knows the information given to Freddy was false, and that he is now mad at Graham. Crawford orders a search of all newspaper venders in a six-hour radius around Chicago, and Graham goes to visit Lecter again, who tells him that he has everything he needs, but he’s not looking hard enough.

That night, Dolarhyde and Reba are on a date. He has taken her to the zoo hospital so she can pet a sedated tiger and hear its heartbeat through a stethoscope.

Afterwards, they go to Dolarhyde’s house. They kiss, and watch a movie of the next family that Dolarhyde plans on killing. Eventually, they have sex. When Dolarhyde wakes up in the morning, he sees that Reba is missing. He starts searching the house for her, and eventually looks in the attic, which I guess is supposed to be the bedroom for the Red Dragon personality. He looks at the dragon picture, sees Reba walking outside next to a fountain, and then starts saying no to the picture. He then puts a shotgun in his mouth, but takes it out and starts weeping. Later, he is dropping Reba off at her house and tells her that he has to leave town for a while. She asks if she’ll see him again, but he just tells her to get out of the van.

Later that day, we see Dolarhyde at a museum, picking up a copy of the dragon painting. Then we see Graham and Crawford watching the tapes of the families. As Dolarhyde is knocking out two ladies and eating the copy, Graham realizes that the common link was the company where the tapes were made. He then hears about a man at a museum knocking out two ladies and reportedly eating a copy of a painting. When Crawford asks why he’d eat the copy, Graham says, “Because he’s trying to stop.”

That night, Dolarhyde is at the video place when he sees Graham and Crawford there. He leaves, and we see Graham and Crawford trying to get a name for Dolarhyde. At first they have no luck, but after describing him, a girl who is there says, “That sounds like Mr. Dolarhyde.” At the same time, Dolarhyde is driving by Reba’s house when he sees her there with the walking hard-on. He kisses her and she goes inside. He watches her walk away for too long, and Dolarhyde shoots him in the head. Dolarhyde then goes to Reba’s door, and when she answers, she is knocked out with chloroform. As he is carrying her to his van, Dolarhyde stops and looks at the hard-on’s body. When Reba wakes up, she is in Dolarhyde’s house. Dolarhyde tells her to be quiet so He doesn’t hear them and says that He wants Dolarhyde to kill her. Dolarhyde then starts pouring gasoline all over the place. After he finishes that, Dolarhyde holds a shotgun first to Reba’s face and then to his own face, all while Reba is begging Dolarhyde to not let him hurt her. We then hear the shotgun go off and see blood shoot up onto Reba’s face.

While all this is happening, Graham and his crew are heading for Dolarhyde’s house. When they arrive, they find the house up in flames and Reba walking outside. She says that Dolarhyde is dead and is led away by one of the cops. As Graham and everyone else prepare to barge in, the house blows up. The next scene is Reba in a hospital being consoled by Graham. He says that she didn’t fall in love with a freak; she fell in love with a man with a freak on his back. He leaves, and we see Crawford give Graham Dolarhyde’s diary, which is full of Lecter’s press clippings and his own, along with some other gruesome stuff.

Some time later, we see Graham back at home, relaxing on the beach with his wife and son. His son asks if they can make s’mores, and he says okay. Next we see a forensics investigator calling Crawford. He tells Crawford that the body they found in Dolarhyde’s house wasn’t Dolarhyde, and that the people at the place where Dolarhyde worked say they have a man missing. We then cut back to Graham’s house, where he and Molly are wondering what is taking Josh so long. Graham goes into the house just as the phone starts ringing. He ignores it, and he then sees the mirror from the downstairs bathroom is smashed just as Crawford starts leaving a message saying that Dolarhyde is still alive. Graham gets a knife and goes upstairs, heading for Josh’s room. Inside, he sees Dolarhyde there with a piece of mirror to Josh’s cheek. Dolarhyde tells Graham to drop the knife as Graham notices a puddle of urine on the floor next to Josh’s foot. Graham drops the knife and starts yelling at Josh for wetting his pants in the same way Dolarhyde’s grandmother did to him. Dolarhyde lets go of Josh long enough for him to escape. Dolarhyde and Graham start fighting, and Graham pushes him away, grabbing Josh and heads for the master bedroom. Josh crawls under the bed. Dolarhyde starts trying to break the door down, and Graham pulls his gun out to shoot Dolarhyde as soon as he comes in. Suddenly, the door stops shaking, and we hear Molly calling out for Josh and Will. Will crawls to the ruined door, sees Molly, and sees Dolarhyde come out from behind her. He yells for Molly to get down, which she does, and Graham and Dolarhyde start shooting each other through the door. They both fall, and Molly goes into the bedroom. She goes to Will, who says, “Shoot him.” She gets the gun and shoots Dolarhyde dead, then goes back to the bedroom, takes hold of Josh, and starts crying.

Some time later, we see Dr. Lecter in his cell, writing a letter to Will. He says that he hopes the letter finds Will fully healed by now. As he is finishing up, Dr. Chilton comes to Lecter, saying that he has a visitor, a young girl who claims to be an F.B.I. agent, though Chilton thinks she’s too young and pretty. Chilton says that he’ll tell the girl (Clarice Starling, in case you haven’t guessed) that Lecter said no, but Lecter perks up and says, “What is her name?”

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