dr. lecter is one of the best characters ever recreated in film and this prequel (made after silence of the lambs) was fraught with the possibility that it wouldn't do "silence" any justice.
on the contrary this appears to be one of the most underrated films out there. it uses lecter merely as a device within the story rather than the more common tendency of studio films to over-egg a previously successful pudding.
what we get is a really tense, unpredictable serial killer thriller with convincing performances from an assertive cast. one that will keep you awake even if you watch it late at night. fiennes is superb as the detached creepy guy with a secret. hopkins is very welcome in the reprise of 'that role' and norton performs the 'cop talking out loud to himself' in a abnormally comfortable way.
really really would recommend this until cows arrive.