The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith
Screenplay by Anthony Minghella
Starring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett
Tom Ripley (Damon) is an outsider and a underachiever trying to break into higher society. When he poses as a Princeton graduate he’s introduced to Herbert Greenleaf, the father of Dickie (Law), a Princeton grad who’s traveling in Italy. Herbert recruits Tom to go to Italy, hoping Tom can convince Dickie to come home and start his life. When Tom arrives in Italy he’s soon sucked into the lifestyle Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Paltrow) are living. As the three form a bond, Tom begins to assimilate himself into their world. Now he’s willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his new life.
In addition to commercial success, this movie was nominated for five Academy Awards. These nominations included Best Screenplay for Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain) who also directed the film. The screenplay was based on the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train). The cast includes some of the biggest talents in Hollywood, starting with Matt Damon (The Departed) and Jude Law (Hugo). The film also features Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March), and Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug).
This is an excellent story based on one of the books in a series of five written by Patricia Highsmith. Anthony Minghella is the second writer to adapt the story, which was originally done in 1960 by French director René Clément and titled Plein Soleil (Purple Noon). The story is an intense journey alongside an amoral and intelligent young Tom Ripley. Each of the twists and turns in the film come with a decisiveness that really accentuates the intense nature of the story. The screenplay also does a great job of keeping things uncomfortable, even in the most peaceful moments of the film. This tension, combined with the rest of the great writing, really make for a great story. In addition, the dialogue plays right into the moment, allowing the characters to all develop their own unique personalities. Overall, this is a great story.
The acting in this one is equally great. Matt Damon pulls off one of his best roles as the sadistic and calculated Tom Ripley. He succeeded in playing the entire range of emotions needed to make his role convincing. Jude Law is also great, bringing the 50s playboy Dickie to life with all the energy the character deserved. Law earned an Oscar nomination for his acting in this one. The work by Paltrow is also really nicely done. She manages to bring an innocence to her role that is slowly chipped away throughout the film. Adding in nice work from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cate Blanchett really puts this movie at a higher level in terms of the acting.
The production for this film is also great. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score. All the visual and sound aspects of this film really come together nicely. In particular, I think the choice in locations and the set decoration really brought the story to life. The costuming is also great, creating a 1950s world similar to the one I think many of us imagine. The technical work and the score just add to the success of this one and make for a really enjoyable film.
The only criticisms I have for this are in regards to the length of the film. At 139 minutes, the film does seem to slow at times. This hurts the tension in the film slightly, and often includes scenes that seem overlong or unnecessary. As I’ve already indicated, the acting and story more than do their job, so this isn’t a major issue. Still, this is a movie that will require some patience from viewers looking for a fast-paced thriller.
This is a great movie and a classic thriller. The suspense and tension in the film make it fun to watch from the very beginning of the movie. If you’re a fan of any of the actors involved, this is one you need to see. If it’s been a while since you saw it; watch it again. I would also recommend this to fans of drama or suspense movies in general, since it has so much to offer on both counts. I give this one 4.7 out of 5 stars.
So gorgeous to look at, but when you get deep down into the story, it’s actually pretty ugly. Which is definitely a good thing, too. Good review Jeff.
Thanks for reading. I think you nailed the essence of this story. For Tom to be so smart and evil seems to connect him to villains like Hannibal Lector. It’s my favorite kind of conflict, intelligence and evil mixed into one person.