Mistaken for a Princeton graduate whilst wearing a borrowed blazer, the low born New York charmer, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), is dispatched by rich businessman Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn), to travel first class on an all-expenses-paid mission, to bring his errant young playboy son, Dickie (Jude Law), back to New York from his champagne and party filled life on the Mediterranean. However, on meeting the handsome and charismatic Dickie (and his equally attractive girlfriend), the awestruck Tom falls for his charms and an ambiguous relationship begins. Tom, the social chameleon who has talents for forgery and impersonation, feeling that he cannot enter this world as himself begins to transform his identity, by learning new skills, studying jazz, art, geography and foreign languages. He not only changes his clothes he also changes his character. Meanwhile the innocent and trusting Meredith (Cate Blanchett) who met Tom on his arrival in Europe accepts Tom as an equal because she thinks he is Dickie Greenleaf. But all is not well in the playground of the rich, for Dickie is in turns as unpleasant and rude as he is debonair and charming, and soon he and his rich friends begin to tire of the financially inferior and all too clingy Tom, who has no intention of being cast adrift, for it is his belief that "its better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody"...
The Talented Mr Ripley subtly portrays the hedonistic lifestyle of rich, young Americans in the 1950's. In the movie, Tom is less the casebook amoral psychopath of the novel and more a victim of class in his desire to be like the rich but cruel Dickie and Freddie. The film is, however, anything but simple and only about an hour in does the film become anything approaching an orthodox thriller. You are kept hooked throughout as we guess at Tom's motives..., which is at best ambiguous. We observe the mercurial Dickie toy with his affections, whilst Dickie's girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), aware of Dickie's weaknesses, looks on.
Although fans of the novel may be unhappy with the liberties taken with both the plot and the characters from Patricia Highsmiths novel, most people will agree that Anthony Minghella has done an excellent job in imaginatively and successfully bringing The Talented Mr Ripley to the big screen. Not only does he direct this excellent and very intelligent thriller with a sure and subtle touch but he perfectly captures the beauty of the mediteranean, as the movie moves from one spectacular venue to another; from San Remo to Naples, Rome, and Venice. It also stars a top notch and perfectly cast array of the worlds finest young actors, including Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare In Love), Jude Law (A.I.), as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman (Happiness) and Cate Blanchette (Elizabeth), all on top form. Damon's Ripley is an odd figure, his cumbersome awkwardness contrasting perfectly with Jude Law's cool and casual arrogance as Dickie Greenleaf, lolling around on his Riviera deck-chair as if the world owes him a living. And, although Matt Damon is truly outstanding, it is Jude Law's Oscar-nominated turn and Hoffman's brilliantly obnoxious performance as an ugly-rich American that come close to stealing the movie.
There are many unforgettable moments, in this beautifully crafted movie that Hitchcock would be proud of, as Tom struggles to maintain his dual identity. More dramatically satisfying than The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley is an intelligent film, carefully cast and immaculately performed. Highly recommended this for people who love suspense and prefer to watch movies that come with an IQ!!!