NOTE: This spoiler sent in by Starscream who says..."The movie is decent, but you can't help but think that Anthony Hopkins' Lecter would kick this kid's ass."
Hannibal Rising begins in Lithuania, 1941, as the Nazis are making their push into the Soviet Union. We find 8-year-old Hannibal Lecter and his sister, Mischa, playing by a lake near their family's estate, Lecter Castle. They see German aircraft flying overhead, and they're called back to the castle. The Lecter family, Hannibal's parents and servants, are making preparations to flee the fighting. Hannibal sees his mother packing her jewelry, and notices her leave behind a bundle of letters in her bureau drawer.
All packed, the family moves to their dacha (summer house) in the woods. The family unpacks and Hannibal's parents act, for their children's sake, like there's nothing dangerous going on. Hannibal acts very protective of Mischa. While Hannibal's mother bathes Mischa, she playfully puts some of her jewelry into the mouth of a mounted boar's head, on the wall. "Pearls before swine," she says.
Back at Lecter Castle, a group of Nazi SS are preparing to claim it as their headquarters. The Nazis are being helped by some local scoundrels acting as mercenaries. These are the film's primary villians: Grutas (their leader), Kolnas, Dortlich, Milko, Grentz, and Pot Watcher. The SS officers say if they'd like to join the need to prove their loyalty by killing the Lecter's Jewish cook, who had stayed behind. The six of them happily comply.
Soon a Soviet tank crew happens on the dacha, where the Lecters are staying. They order the adults out, but say Hannibal and Mischa can stay inside, where it's warm. They act very cordial, and say they only need to pump water from the dacha's well to cool their tank. While the water's pumping, a flight of German fighter jets fly over and take notice. They dive towards the tank and a firefight ensues. The jet ends up crashing into the tank, and all are killed, except for Hannibal and Mischa, who see their parents shot down before their eyes.
Now the six mercenaries are making their way across a battlefield, looting from the dead. They come across their wounded SS commander, whom they kill and loot. They hear on their radio that all looters are to be shot on-sight, so they decide to hide in the woods, and wait-out the fighting. Following the Soviet tank tracks, they soon come across the Lecters' dacha.
Bursting inside, they chain-up Hannibal and Mischa. They loot from the dacha, missing the jewels Hannibal's mother put in the boar's mouth, but taking a bracelet from little Mischa. It's terribly cold out, and there's little wildlife for the mercenaries to eat. They make do with small game, but soon that isn't enough. Disgustingly munching on the carcass of a small bird, Grutas announces, "We eat or we die." All six mercenaries look up towards the balcony at Hannibal and Mischa, who stare back, terrified...
Eight years later, the war is over. We find Hannibal back at Lecter Castle, which the Soviets have turned into an orphanage. He is one of hundreds of young men there. As they sing a Soviet anthem, one of the youth commanders notices Hannibal isn't singing, and begins to reprimand him. He goes to strike Hannibal, but Hannibal stabs the youth commander in the hand with a fork. Hannibal is summoned to the headmaster's office, which used to be his parent's bedroom. He's scolded and sent to bed. In bed he has a dream, a disjointed flash of black-and-white. All you can clearly see is the six mercenaries hauling Mischa, who is screaming, out from the dacha. Hannibal screams Mischa's name in the darkness (the only word he's said until that point).
Angry at being woken up, the youth commander locks Hannibal in the castle's dungeon. Hannibal knows a secret exit from the dungeon. He quietly collects his things and sneaks into his parent's bedroom/headmaster's office and opens his mother's bureau. Inside he finds the bundled stack of letters she left behind. They are from his uncle, living in Paris. There is a photo of his uncle and a beautiful Japanese woman. He escapes the orphanage and makes a daring trip to France.
Once in Paris he finds his uncle's mansion. A guard dog starts barking, and the groundskeeper discovers him. After showing the letters, Hannibal is ushered into the house. Inside he's introduced to the Japanese woman from the pictures: his uncle's wife, Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Hannibal doesn't speak, but she understands that his family has been killed. She tells Hannibal that his uncle died during the war, and that she's the only family he has left.
There's a montage scene of Hannibal learning to feel at-home with Lady Murasaki at the mansion. He learns kendo (a type of Japanese swordplay with bamboo training swords) from Lady Murasaki, cooking from the family chef, gardening from the gardener, etc. At one point Hannibal cuts his finger and she stitches it up for him. His first spoken words are, "thank you." We also see more flashes of Hannibal's dream sequences, with the mercenaries taking away his sister. At this point, it's clear that she'd been eaten and young Hannibal watched. Hannibal explains these dreams to Murasaki.
One day, Hannibal happens upon Lady Murasaki in her family shrine, in the mansion's attic. Inside are ancestral masks, an altar, a full suit of samurai armor, and three traditional swords: a katana (longsword), a wakizashi (medium sword) and a tanto (dagger). There are scrolls showing her family's history, including paintings of severed heads being placed as offerings upon an altar. He is clearly fascinated. She explains to him how the armor must be carefully polished with oil of cloves.
The next scene is at an open air food market in Paris. While Hannibal and Lady Murasaki are browsing around, a fat fishmonger starts making racial slurs at her. "Hey Japonais!" he calls, "does your pussy run sideways?!" Infuriated, Hannibal attacks the man. Gendarmes (French police) are called in to break up the fight. Back at the mansion, Hannibal goes to the attic and approaches the samurai armor. He removes the faceplate from the helmet and holds it up to his own face. It eerily foreshadows the mask that an older Hannibal later wears in prison. Then he draws the katana from its sheath...
Next we see the fat fishmonger in a small rowboat on a lake. He's pulling the guts from a fish with his bare hands. Coming ashore he hears someone playing a tune on a mondolin. It's Hannibal, who's sitting next to a motorcycle. The fishmonger recognizes Hannibal and starts to taunt him. "You said Japanese pussy runs... sideways?" Lecter asks. The fishmonger just laughs at him. Lecter whips out the katana and cuts a large swath across the fat man's belly. "Sideways like that?" he asks. Lecter proceeds to slice the man up, finishing by decapitating him.
He places the man's head as an offering to Lady Murasaki's samurai ancestors at the shrine. Lady Murasaki discovers this, and accepts Hannibal's justification for the murder. We are introduced to Inspector Pascal Popil, who is investigating the fishmonger's death, though his official responsibility is investigating war criminals. He learns of the Hannibal's fight with the fishmonger at the market, and brings him in for questioning. Lecter takes a polygraph test, passes, and leaves. Inspector Popil notes that Lecter's results show he reacts to nothing.
Hannibal is accepted to a medical school, in Paris. He is the youngest medical student in the history of France. He finances his education by working nights in the medical laboratory and collecting cadavers. Lady Murasaki sells his uncle's mansion, and moves to an apartment in Paris. Hannibal asks to stay with her, but she says he ought to stay in the dormitories. While collecting cadavers from the death row of a Paris prison, he meets Inspector Popil, who is questioning a war criminal before his execution. Hannibal sees Popil inject the man with sodium thiopental to make him talk. Afterwards, Popil and Lecter acknowledge each other, and Hannibal explains how he's working at the medical school.
Later Lecter injects himself with sodium thiopental and sleeps in an effort to remember the events of his sister's death. He recalls the faces of the mercenaries, which he sketches on paper, and remembers how Pot Watcher left their dog tags in the dacha, before a mortar hit the house, killing him. Lecter must return to Lithuania.
Crossing the border into the Soviet Union, he's recognized by Dortlich, now working for the Soviet police. Lecter finds a horse at his family's castle and goes to the dacha. The Dortlich follows him there. Inside the dacha, Hannibal finds his mother's jewels, the dog tags (so now he knows the mercenaries' names), and the metal bathtub that they used to boil Mischa. Her bones are still inside. Dortlich bursts in, but Lecter gets the drop on him. Then we see Lecter burying Mischa's bones in the forest.
In the next scene Lecter has Dortlich bound to a tree, with one end of the rope attached to the horse. Hannibal forces the man to give him the locations of his former comrades. Dortlich reveals Grentz is in a small town in Canada, the others are working with Grutas in a small town outside Paris. Dortlich pleads for his life, saying they could tell from her coughing that Mischa had pneumonia, and wouldn't live long anyway. Hannibal finds little sympathy, and whistles for the horse to move forward, drawing the rope taut. There's a snap and a pop, and suddenly Lecter's face is splattered with blood. Hannibal wipes the blood from his face and licks it off. Soviet soldiers eventually happen on the scene and only find Dortlich's head, rotten, with both cheeks missing. One of the soldiers theorizes that his cheeks had apparently been made into a brochette (skewered). The dead man's dogtag is in his mouth.
Hannibal returns to Paris with the new knowledge of where the remaining four mercenaries are. Once there, he is approached by Inspector Popil, who has a photo sent by the Soviets of the dead Dortlich. He's done some research, and suspects what's going on with Hannibal and these men. He sits down with Lecter and asks him to tell him what happened. Lecter does, and we see a flashback of young Hannibal collapsing in a field after fleeing from the dacha, being found by Soviet troops. Popil implores Lecter not to take matters into his own hands, and to let Popil bring these men to justice. Hannibal says he will, but it's clear he has other things on his mind. Afterwards, Popil confides to an assistant that, "Lecter's heart died with his sister and his humanity died in the field that day. All that's left is a monster."
Hannibal and Lady Murasaki travel to the small town near Paris, where three of the remaining mercs are hiding. Kolnas, they discover, owns a restaurant in the town. He also has a family, now. At the restaurant, Hannibal calls over the Kolnas' young daughter. He slips the Kolnas' dogtag into her pocket, and notices she's wearing Mischa's bracelet. Later on, Kolnas is looking through his daughter's pockets and finds the dogtag, terrified. He looks to the table in the restaurant where Lecter and Murasaki were sitting, but they're gone.
Kolnas meets with Grutas and Milko aboard Grutas' ship, docked in a river. It's clear Grutas is working as a pimp, keeping women in cages onboard. He shows Grutas the dogtag, and tells him what he'd heard about Dortlich, who was found, eaten, in Lithuania. Grutas dispatches Milko to find and kill Hannibal, in Paris.
It's nighttime, and Hannibal is alone in the school's anatomy lab, working on cadavers. Milko sees him inside, and climbs through a window to get in. Hannibal feels the cool breeze from outside and figures he's suddenly not alone. He leaves his desk and moves to a cadaver, and we hear the noise of a power saw. All the while, Milko is sneaking up on him. Milko watches through a doorway, and sees Hannibal go from the cadaver back to his desk. Now partially obscured by a doorway, Milko can only see Hannibal's hand resting on the desk, and figures now is the time to take his shot. He moves in to pull the trigger, but suddenly Lecter comes up behind him, and injects his neck with something that forces him to pass out. It turns out the hand Milko saw on the desk was one that Hannibal had sawed off the cadaver as a distraction.
In the next scene, Hannibal has Milko stripped, tied up, and hanging from a metal frame, partially-submerged in a huge tank of formaldehyde, along with the other med school cadavers. Milko comes-to and starts screaming. Hannibal forces him to reveal where Grutas is. Hannibal continues to toy with him until he hears footsteps along the hallway and sees that it's Inspector Popil. Lecter quickly dunks Milko in the tank with the other corpses, closes the trap door to the tank, and pushes the switch to fill the tank. The last thing Milko sees before drowning is Lecter smiling and waving at him. Lecter meets Popil in the anatomy lab, they talk and again, Popil is forced to leave for lack of any real evidence against him.
Lecter is now alone in the lab, preparing a chemical mixture that causes a timed explosion. He goes by motorcycle to Grutas' estate outside the small town, near Paris. He gets in through a downstairs window, and sets up the explosives in the basement. Then he goes upstairs to confront Grutas, who's getting his chest shaven in a bathtub by one of his whores. Hannibal bursts in to surprise him, but Grutas expects this, and his henchmen tackle Lecter to the floor. As Grutas is gloating over his cleverness, the explosive ignites, and gives Hannibal a distraction to escape.
I don't exactly recall how this next scene goes, but Hannibal eventually returns to Paris to Lady Murasaki's apartment. It's been ransacked, and she's missing. He finds a note, and calls the phone number on it. Grutas picks up on the other end, says he's kidnapped Murasaki, and he'll trade Hannibal's life for hers. He tells Hannibal where to meet him. Hannibal takes him motorbike back to the small town where Grutas is, but instead of going to the rendezvous point to meet Grutas, he goes to Kolnas' restaurant.
Kolnas is inside and Hannibal surprises him. Kolnas tries to reason with Hannibal, like Dorlich tried to do. Hannibal pulls a bracelet from his pocket, the one Kolnas had stolen from Mischa and given to his own daughter. Hannibal tells a terrified Kolnas that he has his daughter hostage, and will return her if he tells him where Grutas is holding Murasaki. Kolnas does, and then demands proof that his daughter is safe. Hannibal tells him to call his own house, where Kolnas' wife tells him that the children are both asleep in their beds...Hannibal only took the bracelet, he was bluffing about kidnapping the girl. Angry at being duped, Kolnas goes to attack Hannibal as he's leaving, but Hannibal pulls out the wakizashi he'd taken from Lady Murasaki's samurai set, and stabs Kolnas through the chin, up through his head...two to go.
He takes is bike to the river where Grutas' boat is docked. The boat is traveling downriver, and Hannibal jumps onboad when it passes under a bridge. Inside, we see Grutas taunting Lady Murasaki, who's tied up. He's telling her how she'll become one of his whores. Hannibal kills Grutas' henchmen, throwing them overboard, they are crushed between the boat and the stone wall along the river. Hannibal goes below deck and confronts Grutas. They fight and Grutas eventually pulls out a pistol and shoots Lecter in the back. We hear a snap and Hannibal collapses. Murasaki starts to sob. Grutas is (again) gloating over his victory, when Lecter draws the wakizashi (now broken by the bullet) and slices the achilles' tendons in the back of Grutas' legs. His pistol goes skipping beyond his reach.
Lecter stands, and we see that the broken wakizashi took the full force of the bullet and he is uninjured. Immobilized on the floor, Grutas offers to give up Grentz' location in Canada, in exchange for a quick death. Murasaki pleads for Grutas' life, telling Hannibal to give up this pursuit and allow Popil to take them into custody. Hannibal refuses. Grutas says how he and the other five aren't the only ones who ate little Mischa. He tells Lecter that, half-unconscious, he was fed some of the broth, as well. Enraged at the truth about eating his own sister, Hannibal goes mad, and carves an 'M' (for Mischa) into Grutas' chest. Disgusted (and now untied), Murasaki leaves the cabin. We see Hannibal lean over and take a bite from one of Grutas cheeks, as the man screams. Looking over her shoulder, Murasaki sees Hannibal climb on top of Grutas and (while it looks like they're kissing from this angle) we know that Hannibal is eating Grutas' face, while Grutas screams.
It's still night, and Murasaki is now standing on a bridge next to Inspector Popil, and a troop of gendarmes. They're all searching for Lecter. Grutas' boat is in the distance, and it suddenly explodes. Everyone is shocked, but Murasaki catches a glimpse of Hannibal running along the riverbank, escaping into the woods.
In the final scene we see a car driving along a road in the forest. Eventually it stops in a small Canadian town, parking in front of a taxidermy shop. A man walks into the shop, and we see the animal heads mounted on the walls. The shopkeeper comes to the counter, and we can tell it's Grentz. Grentz looks at Hannibal, who stands before him. Hannibal pulls Grentz' dogtag from his pocket...the final one. "Hello, Mr. Grentz..." Hannibal says, "I've come to collect a head."
The last shot is Lecter's car driving away from the Canadian town, as the credits roll.