In 1958, the charming but penniless Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is hired by a wealthy magnate to travel to Italy and rescue his son, Dickie (Jude Law), from a life of indolence. Upon arrival, Tom discovers that Dickie has it all - including a beautiful girlfriend, Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) - and begins to covet his luxurious lifestyle. Although Tom is sexually attracted to Dickie, the latter soon tires of him, and when Tom begins to find himself excluded from Dickie's coterie, his envy takes a murderous turn. Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel which also provided the inspiration for the pre-New Wave French classic 'Plein Soleil' and Wim Wenders' 'The American Friend'.
"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 Dickie 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. Recreating late-1950s Italy in exacting detail, the film captures the sensuousness of la dolce vita while 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, Amazon.com
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