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The Talented Mr. Ripley

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley

Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Anthony Minghella
Rated: R
RunTime: 139 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Jack Davenport, Caterina Deregibus, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Rebhorn

Review by John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

"No matter what you've done, no matter how terrible, no one ever thinks that they're a bad person." These words are uttered by Mr. Tom Ripley, played perfectly by Matt Damon. The line perfectly sums up the kind of character Ripley is. Looking back over several of Damon's previous films, one realizes that while he has always done admirably, he has also been overshadowed by even greater co-stars. In "Good Will Hunting", Robin Williams stole the glory, and in "Rounders", audiences were so mesmerized by Edward Norton, that Damon was overlooked. Here, Damon is able to display his considerable acting talents without fear of being upstaged

Tom Ripley openly admits that he has three talents: forging signatures, lying, and impersonating people. When Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) hires Tom to go to Italy and bring his wayward son, Dickie (Jude Law), home, Tom puts these talents to use. Tom soon becomes best buddies with Dickie and his fiancee Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow). Tom soon becomes so obsessed with the lifestyle he now lives, that after an "accident" on a boating trip claims Dickie's life, he decides the best course of action would be to assume Dickie's identity. This soon has him sinking deeper and deeper into the pits of depravity as he attempts to keep his lie alive.

"The Talented Mister Ripley" is perhaps the type of film Hitchcock would have made, were he a director in the '90s rather than the '50s and '60s. Beautifully shot in Italy, a rather eerie sense lingers behind each scene, even before Ripley changes. The main difference between this film and a Hitchcock piece is the so-called subtext. This is most likely due more to the changing times than to any directing or writing style. If this had been made by Hitchcock, the most subtext that would have been present would perhaps have been Gwyneth Paltrow's line: "It's a good thing we're not getting married soon, or else we'd have to take Tom with us on the honeymoon". In this tale, made for '90s audiences, Tom is blatantly homosexual, as are several other characters. Whether this should be viewed as a fault or not is entirely at the discretion of the viewer.

The acting here is truly something to behold. As I've already said, Damon is amazing, but the entire supporting cast is excellent as well. Jude Law in particular delivers a particularly amazing performance. Gwyneth Paltrow nicely underplays the role of the only person who doesn't believe Tom, and Phillip Seymore Hoffman is perfect as a friend of Dickie's who begins to suspect everything is not as it seems. Cate Blanchett is unfortunately underused in the role of a woman who believes Tom is Dickie. Also look for an entertaining appearance by Phillip Baker Hall as a hard boiled detective.

One of the film's largest flaws is the running time. At 139 minutes things really do tend to drag, particularly at the beginning where perhaps a bit too much time is spent setting the plot into motion and introducing the characters. However, this is the film equivalent of a good "page turner" of a novel. It does a great job of holding your interest, making you wonder how Tom is going to get out of each situation created by his lie. An enjoyable film overall, though far from flawless, I give "The Talented Mr. Ripley" four stars and a recommendation to try and catch a matinee.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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