The Talented Mr. Ripley is a 1999 American psychological thriller written for the screen and directed by Anthony Minghella. An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1955 novel of the same name, the film stars Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge Sherwood and Cate Blanchett as Meredith Logue.
The novel was previously filmed as Plein Soleil in 1960.
Tom Ripley is a young man struggling to make a living in 1950s New York City. While working at a party, he is approached by the wealthy shipbuilder Herbert Greenleaf, who believes that Ripley went to Princeton with his son, Dickie. Greenleaf recruits Ripley to travel to Italy to persuade Dickie to return home to the United States, for which he will pay Ripley $1,000. Ripley accepts the proposal, although he did not go to Princeton and has never even met Dickie.
Shortly after his arrival in Italy, Ripley concocts an accidental meeting on the beach with Dickie and his fiancée, Marge Sherwood, and quickly insinuates himself into their lives under the pretext of being a fellow jazz lover. On one of their jaunts, Dickie and Ripley meet Dickie's friend Freddie Miles, who treats Ripley with barely concealed contempt.
A local girl, whom Dickie had impregnated, drowns herself when he refuses to help her financially. Ripley secretly witnesses their final encounter. Dickie begins to tire of Ripley, resenting his constant presence and suffocating dependence. Ripley's own feelings are complicated by his desire to maintain the opulent lifestyle Dickie has afforded him, and by his growing sexual obsession with his new friend. As a gesture, Dickie invites Ripley to sail with him for a last trip to San Remo. Whilst out to sea together, Dickie lashes out when Ripley confronts him about his behavior, and a fight ensues during which Ripley repeatedly strikes Dickie with an oar, killing him. To conceal the murder, Ripley scuttles the boat with Dickie's body before swimming ashore.
When the hotel concierge mistakes him for Dickie, Ripley realizes he can assume Dickie's identity. He forges Dickie's signature, modifies his passport and begins living off the allowance provided by Herbert Greenleaf. He uses Dickie's typewriter to communicate with Marge, making her believe that Dickie has deserted her. He checks into two separate hotels as himself and as Dickie, passing messages between them via the hotel staff to provide the illusion that Dickie is still alive.
Ripley rents an expensive apartment in Rome and spends a lonely Christmas buying expensive presents for himself. Freddie visits expecting to find Dickie and is immediately suspicious of Ripley, as the apartment is not furnished in Dickie's style, while Ripley appears to have copied Dickie's dress and manner perfectly. On his way out, Freddie meets the landlady, who refers to Ripley as "Signor Greenleaf". Freddie goes back to confront him, but Ripley ambushes and murders him, then disposes of the body.
As a result, Ripley's existence becomes a cat-and-mouse game with the Italian police and Dickie's friends. His predicament is complicated by the presence of Meredith Logue, an heiress he met upon his arrival in Italy and to whom he had introduced himself as Dickie. Ripley clears himself by forging a suicide note addressed to Ripley in Dickie's name and moves to Venice. Marge suspects Ripley's involvement in Dickie's death and confronts him after finding Dickie's rings in Ripley's apartment. Ripley is about to murder her but is interrupted by a mutual friend, Peter Smith-Kingsley, who enters the apartment.
Though gaining the trust of Dickie's father, Ripley is disquieted when Greenleaf hires American private detective Alvin MacCarron to carry out a thorough check. However, MacCarron reveals to Ripley that Greenleaf has ordered the investigation be dropped and intends giving Ripley a substantial portion of Dickie's income, with the understanding that certain sordid details about his son's past not be revealed. Marge is dismayed at the resolution, again accusing Ripley before being taken away by Greenleaf and MacCarron.
Ripley goes on a cruise with Peter, only to discover that Meredith is also on board. Ripley secretly placates her with a kiss, but Peter notices. Ripley realizes he cannot keep Peter from discovering that he has been passing himself off as Dickie, because Peter and Meredith know each other and would certainly be meeting on the cruise. He cannot solve this dilemma by murdering Meredith, because she is accompanied by her family. Going to Peter's cabin, Ripley sobs as he strangles Peter to death before returning to his own cabin.
- Matt Damon as Tom Ripley
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Marge Sherwood
- Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf
- Cate Blanchett as Meredith Logue
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Freddie Miles
- Jack Davenport as Peter Smith-Kingsley
- James Rebhorn as Herbert Greenleaf
- Sergio Rubini as Inspector Roverini
- Philip Baker Hall as Alvin MacCarron
- Celia Weston as Aunt Joan
- Ivano Marescotti as Col. Verrechia of the carabinieri
Roger Ebert gave the film four-out-of-four stars, calling it "an intelligent thriller" that is "insidious in the way it leads us to identify with Tom Ripley ... He's a monster, but we want him to get away with it". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Law's performance: "This is a star-making role for the preternaturally talented English actor Jude Law. Beyond being devastatingly good-looking, Mr. Law gives Dickie the manic, teasing powers of manipulation that make him ardently courted by every man or woman he knows". Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating, and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote: "Damon is at once an obvious choice for the part and a hard sell to audiences soothed by his amiable boyishness ... the facade works surprisingly well when Damon holds that gleaming smile just a few seconds too long, his Eagle Scout eyes fixed just a blink more than the calm gaze of any non-murdering young man. And in that opacity we see horror".
Charlotte O'Sullivan of Sight and Sound wrote, "A tense, troubling thriller, marred only by problems of pacing (the middle section drags) and some implausible characterisation (Meredith's obsession with Ripley never convinces), it's full of vivid, miserable life". Time named it one of the ten best films of the year and called it a "devious twist on the Patricia Highsmith crime novel". James Berardinelli gave the film two and a half stars out of four, calling it "a solid adaptation" that "will hold a viewer's attention", but criticized "Damon's weak performance" and "a running time that's about 15 minutes too long." Berardinelli compared the film unfavorably with the previous adaptation, Purple Noon, which he gave four stars. He wrote, "The remake went back to the source material, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. The result, while arguably truer to the events of Highsmith's book, is vastly inferior. To say it suffers by comparison to Purple Noon is an understatement. Almost every aspect of René Clément's 1960 motion picture is superior to that of Minghella's 1999 version, from the cinematography to the acting to the screenplay. Matt Damon might make a credible Tom Ripley, but only for those who never experienced Alain Delon's portrayal."
In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "On balance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is worth seeing more for its undeniably delightful journey than its final destination. Perhaps wall-to-wall amorality and triumphant evil leave too sour an aftertaste even for the most sophisticated anti-Hollywood palate". In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote, "The Talented Mr. Ripley begins as an ingenious exposition of the great truth about charming people having something to hide: namely, their utter reliance on others. It ends up as a dismayingly unthrilling thriller and bafflingly unconvincing character study". In her review for the Village Voice, Amy Taubin criticized Minghella as a "would-be art film director who never takes his eye off the box office, doesn't allow himself to become embroiled in such complexity. He turns The Talented Mr. Ripley into a splashy tourist trap of a movie. The effect is rather like reading The National Enquirer in a café overlooking the Adriatic". Damon was apparently unhappy with the film's departures from Highsmith's novel, telling an interviewer shortly after the film was released, "I'd like to make the whole film all over again with the same cast and same title but make it completely like the book."
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