Talented Mr. Ripley, The

Reviewed By Vibeseeker
Posted 02/09/00 12:17:27

"A clever and lavish thriller."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

In traditional thrillers it's always the hero who takes centre stage presenting the audience with its chief protagonist. Yet it's the villain who inadvertently provides the thrill, colour and intrigue to proceedings. In the fifties, Patricia Highsmith's series of suspense novels centring around the internal struggle of Mr. Ripley turned this story-telling rhetoric on its head. Mr. Ripley was the bad guy.

Director Anthony Minghella follows his multi-Oscar winning The English Patient with a film that exudes a similar classic grace. Fusing together the novels of Highsmith and adding a further dimension through new characters, the film presents itself as a clever and lavish thriller.

The film takes Tom Ripley (Damon) to glorious fifties Italy, a jazz infused land of Gucci and carefree yachting, on an errand to bring back the estranged son of the wealthy Greenleaf family. Before Tom sets sail, it is apparent that the boy has a talent for impersonation, a skill he uses to break into the fancy free circle of the American playboy son Dickie Greenleaf (Law), by masquerading as an old school chum. Once in with Dickie, his amoral life takes full effect as he slowly realises an envy for Dickie's life, including his wife-to-be Marge, played by Paltrow. This all fuels a desire to actually become Dickie. The demons of Ripley's internal conflict lead to a few moments of self torturing madness, and it's cover-up time as the Italian authorities begin a game of "Cluedo" to unearth the answer to a spate of mysterious disappearances.

The cast assembled really offers something for everyone: Oscar fallout, with Paltrow and Blanchett on the same screen, the smooth charm of Jude Law, the electric and eccentric swagger of Seymour Hoffman and the solid reverence of Mr. Damon. All provide excellent performances.

This is not the sweeping drama of The English Patient, but more a crack at being an intelligent thriller, Hitchcock style. Although Damon is affable as the troubled Ripley, the film is devoid of Hitchcockian intensity or menace. This is down to the very romantic manner in which the film is shot, infusing the landscapes and the period into the film's framework, and disregarding the mechanisms that are commonplace in providing the chill in thrillers. It's responsible for an experience that is ultimately too smooth to generate any primal intrigue or suspense for the viewer.

Although Minghella's deftness never overstates Damon's character in a melodramatic fashion, when things start to turn nasty it fails to showcase the undeniable metaphysical anguish that Ripley is suffering.

Ultimately a pleasant rather than resonating experience. With The Talented Mr. Ripley, the real thrills are to be had from the film's style, music and glorious locations. ---David Michael

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