While "The Talented Mr. Ripley" may not quitequalify as a masterpiece of suspense, it certainly is the most skilled,engrossing homage to Alfred Hitchcock in ages.
Directed by Oscar winner Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient") with many nods to themaster of subtle, upscale thrillers, this picture boasts gorgeous, Italian seaside locations; layers of romantic Machiavellian intrigue; honest-to-goodnesssurprises that unfold before your eyes; a goose-pimply, Bernard Herrman-inspiredscore (by "Patient" composer Gabriel Yared); and a glamorous,talented cast that could give Hitchcock's favorite players a run for their money.
Gwyneth Paltrow (today's Grace Kelly) is Marge Sherwood,his beautiful, expatriate girlfriend.
And Matt Damon gets to stretch his acting muscles as TomRipley, a wildly deceptive hanger-on who conspires with psychopathic determinationto insert himself into Dickie's life, and discard forever his working classbackground.
Of course, as with any good Everyman suspense story, itbegins with a stroke of chance: Back in Boston, Tom is mistaken for a Princetonalumni by Dickie's blue-blooded father (James Rebhorn), an error he quicklyexploits when the father offers him a all-expenses-paid trip to Italy,where Tom is to persuade Dickie (also a Princeton man) to come home.
Once in Italy, Tom befriends Dickie and Marge, but -- asthe audience begins to slowly realize -- Ripley is not the kind of heroicEveryman who finds himself in over his head in such movies. He's obsessedwith infiltrating every corner of Dickie's existence.
It's an obsession that soon becomes a twisted kind of unrequitedlove affair with deadly consequences when Dickie gets bored with Tom'scompany and tosses him aside.
This is the most shaded performance of Damon's career,full of enigma and subtle revelations that come to haunt the other charactersas Tom spins a precarious web of deceit after Dickie disappears, then beginsto assume his life -- which is really all Tom craved in the first place.
But Dickie's boorish pal Freddie Miles (Philip SeymourHoffman) isn't buying the cover story. He's never trusted the sycophantTom in the first place, and it's not long before Marge becomes suspiciousas well.
Then there's the beautiful socialite Meredith Logue (CateBlanchett) -- a girl Tom has convinced he is Dickie -- who becomesa threat to his escalating deception, leading him toward even more drasticmeasures as he resolves to hang on to his newfound existence.
Minghella's doesn't have quite a firm enough grip on hiscommand of the suspense in "Ripley," so the movie never completelyengages the audience's adrenaline. There's also a few times you may findyourself second guessing Tom Ripley when he fails to take the path of leastresistance as he covers his tracks. But Minghella spins a captivating yarnnonetheless, so you'll still be more than willing to go along for the ride.
The director adapted the script from the 1955 novel byPatricia Highsmith -- whose "Strangers On a Train" became oneof Hitchcock's most disquieting classics. He has embellished a bit (forexample, the homosexual undertones are far more amplified than they werein the book), but he wisely still staged the story in the late 1950s, allowinghim to develop an even more acute Hitchcockian atmosphere, infuse the filmwith a dollop of delicious jazz music, and put Paltrow and Blanchett insome stunning dresses.
There's been a lot of Academy Award buzz for "TheTalented Mr. Ripley." I don't think I'd rank it in the Oscar-calibercategory, but taken for what it is -- an attempt to revive the spirit ofTechnicolor Hitchcockian noir -- it's aces.
By the way, if you're the compare-and-contrast type, youmight want to note that Highsmith's novel was filmed once before in 1960as "Purple Noon."
Run time: 139 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 25th December 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $128.8M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Miramax Films, Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 106 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Anthony Minghella
Starring: 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, Fiorello as Fausto, Stefania Rocca as Silvana, Ivano Marescotti as Colonnello Verrecchia, Anna Longhi as Signora Buffi, Alessandro Fabrizi as Sergeant Baggio, Lisa Eichhorn as Emily Greenleaf, Gretchen Egolf as Fran, Jack Willis as Greenleaf Chaffeur, Frederick Alexander Bosche as Fran's Boyfriend, Dario Bergesio as Police Officer, Larry Kaplan as Uncle Ted, Claire Hardwick as Gucci Assistant, Antonio Prester as American Express Clerk (as Nino Prester), Lorenzo Mancuso as Bus Driver, Onofrio Mancuso as Priest, Massimo Reale as Immigration Officer, Emanuele Carucci Viterbi as American Express Clerk, Caterina Deregibus as Dahlia (as Caterina De Regibus), Silvana Bosi as Ermelinda, Gianfranco Barra as Desk Manager Aldo, Renato Scarpa as Tailor, Deirdre Lovejoy as Fighting Neighbor, Brian Tarantina as Fighting Neighbor, Guy Barker as Trumpet (Napoli Jazz Septet), Bernardo Sassetti as Piano (Napoli Jazz Septet), Perico Sambeat as Alto Sax (Napoli Jazz Septet), Gene Calderazzo as Drums (Napoli Jazz Septet) mer, Joseph Lepore as Double Bass (Napoli Jazz Septet), Rosario Giuliuni as Tenor Sax (Napoli Jazz Septet), Eddy Palerno as Electric Guitar (Napoli Jazz Septet), Byron Wallen as Cornet (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Pete King as Alto Sax (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Clark Tracey as Drums (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Jean Toussaint as Tenor Sax (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Geoff Gascoyne as Bass (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Carlo Negroni as Piano (San Remo Jazz Sextet), Beppe Fiorello as Silvana's Fiancé, Marco Quaglia as Silvana's Brother, Alessandra Vanzi as Silvana's Mother, Marco Rossi as Photographer, Roberto Valentini as Onegin (Eugene Onegin Player), Francesco Bovino as Lensky (Eugene Onegin Player), Stefano Canettieri as Zaretsky (Eugene Onegin Player), Marco Foti as Guillot (Eugene Onegin Player), Ludovica Tinghi as Fausto's Fiancée, Nicola Pannelli as Dinelli's Cafe Waiter, Paolo Calabresi as Customs Officer, Pietro Ragusa as Record Store Owner, Simone Empler as Boy Singer, Gianluca Secci as Policeman, Manuel Ruffini as Policeman, Pierpaolo Lovino as Policeman, Roberto Di Palma as San Remo Hotel Desk Clerk