26 – The Talented Mr. Ripley

Patricia Highsmith’s novel about a chameleonlike psychopath in the Mediterranean becomes a sparkling, taut thriller in the hands of director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient). Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is a pasty-white hanger-on who is asked by the prominent father of Dickie, a rich kid, (Jude Law) to travel to Europe and convince his erstwhile son to come home.

Ripley goes, of course, and although his ghostly visage stands out rather abruptly on the golden beaches of Italy, he soon ingratiates himself with Dickie and his glamorous buddies. Well wouldn’t you know it! He’s having so much darn much fun, living his own vida loca and all, that he doesn’t want to come back to the States with Dickie. But hold on! Dickie suddenly doesn’t want Tom hanging around so much. Oh, and Tom’s falling for Dickie’s gorgeous girlfriend Marge (the sumptuous Gwyneth Paltrow), and he’s also finding out more about Dickie than he wanted to know.

How much you enjoy this film does not depend on how much you identify with Tom Ripley. There’s certainly a lot more to him than meets the eye, and this is evident from the very first scene. He’s a mysterious, ambiguous character – in more ways than one. In fact, the most compelling aspect of this movie is that you never truly know Tom Ripley’s motivation. You don’t know what makes him tick. You don’t know, above all, what in the world he’s going to do next. That’s not an easy feat for a screenwriter to accomplish, but Minghella (who adapted the novel) does just that. I really was on the edge of my seat wondering where the story was going to end up. That’s a major plus in this day of carbon-copy scripts.

The Talented Mr. Ripley: 8.5

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