The Talented Mr. Ripley
“I feel like I’ve been handed a new life,” says Tom Ripley at a crucial turning point of this well-cast, stylishly crafted psychological thriller. And indeed he has, because the devious, impoverished Ripley (played with subtle depth by Matt Damon) has just traded his own identity for that of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), the playboy heir to a shipping fortune who has become Ripley’s model for a life worth living. Having been sent by Dickie’s father to retrieve the errant son from Italy, Ripley has smoothly ingratiated himself with Dickey and his lovely,…
“I feel like I’ve been handed a new life,” says Tom Ripley at a crucial turning point of this well-cast, stylishly crafted psychological thriller. And indeed he has, because the devious, impoverished Ripley (played with subtle depth by Matt Damon) has just traded his own identity for that of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), the playboy heir to a shipping fortune who has become Ripley’s model for a life worth living. Having been sent by Dickie’s father to retrieve the errant son from Italy, Ripley has smoothly ingratiated himself with Dickey and his lovely, unsuspecting fiancée, Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow). In due course, the sheer evil of Ripley’s amoral scheme will be revealed.
Superbly adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patricia Highsmith (also the basis of the acclaimed French version, Purple Noon), The Talented Mr. Ripley is writer-director Anthony Minghella’s impressive follow-up to his Oscar-winning triumph The English Patient. Re-creating late-1950s Italy in exacting detail, the film captures the sensuousness of la dolce vita while suspensefully developing the fracturing of Ripley’s mind as his crimes grow increasingly desperate. And where Hitchcock was necessarily discreet with the homosexual subtext of Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Minghella brings it out of the closet, increasing the dramatic tension and complexity of Ripley’s psychological breakdown. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Cate Blanchett are excellent in pivotal supporting roles, and the film’s final image is utterly effective: Ripley’s talents have gone too far, and this study of class distinction, obsession, and deadly desire reaches a disturbing yet richly appropriate conclusion. —Jeff Shannon
Barnes and Noble
All-American boy Matt Damon reveals his dark side in this stylish adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s landmark novel of suspense. Director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) casts Damon against type as impoverished, social-climbing sociopath Tom Ripley with surprisingly effective results. Mistaken for a college chum of expatriate playboy Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), Ripley is dispatched to Italy by the young man’s parents to bring home their wayward son. There Ripley’s identity crisis assumes deadly proportions as he becomes infatuated with the dazzlingly handsome Dickie and intoxicated by the glamorous, carefree lifestyle Dickie shares with his adoring fiancée (Gwyneth Paltrow). Minghella establishes the plot leisurely, allowing the audience to luxuriate in a sumptuous, 1950s Italy straight out of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, as the suspense steadily builds. The real accomplishment of the film, though, is the way it engenders empathy for the murderous, amoral Ripley. His yearnings (and closeted homosexuality) are made palpable and painful; anyone who has ever envied the rich and the beautiful will find that The Talented Mr. Ripley cuts like a knife. Ed Hulse
In The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) becomes a master at taking on another’s identity, pretty much the same thing he does on the film’s soundtrack. Here, the actor does his best to croon like Chet Baker on “My Funny Valentine.” Damon lacks the vocal cords to really pull the standard off, but it’s still a noteworthy effort. The rest of this soundtrack is a mix of vintage jazz (exceptional cuts by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie), Sinead O’Connor’s mystical “A Lullaby for Cain,” and a handful of bop tunes played by the Guy…
In a chilling literary hall of mirrors, Patricia Highsmith introduces Tom Ripley. Like a hero in a latter-day Henry James novel, is sent to Italy with a commission to coax a prodigal young American back to his wealthy father. But Ripley finds himself very fond of Dickie Greenleaf. He wants to be like him—exactly like him. Suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral, Ripley stops at nothing—certainly not only one murder—to accomplish his goal. Turning the mystery form inside out, Highsmith shows the terrifying abilities afforded to a man unhindered by the concept of evil.