If you happen to be one of a handful who has seen Noon, The Talented Mr. Ripley is retreading old ground. It's actually different. In fact, it's very different. So much so that with the exception of a few brief scenes and the overall theme, these two films could be based on different source material. What's really astonishing is that both are excellent films.
Tom Ripley (Damon) is introduced innocuously enough. He's a New York piano player/maintenance worker/bathroom attendant who, after borrowing a Princeton-crested jacket, suddenly finds himself propelled to Italy in search of Dickie Greenleaf (Law) at the behest of Dickie's father (Rebhorn). Tom arrives soon enough, finding Dickie living the slacker dream, sailing, drinking, and carousing -- when he's not spending time with steady girl Marge (Paltrow).
Ripley's plan to emulate Dickie is apparent from the start, but it isn't until free spirit Dickie inevitably pushes the clingy Tom away that Ripley figures he'll take over Dickie's life altogether. Then the fun really starts.
Matt Damon plays a sociopath with uncanny -- and quite spooky -- ease. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tom Ripley become a recurring antihero -- like a Hannibal Lecter should be. Highsmith wrote five books about Mr. Ripley, so there's plenty of source material to work from. Sequels or no, Damon is so dead-on scary that Hollywood likely shudders to be alone with him.
 Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand, is fairly useless in her role. For starters, she vacillates between her standby British accent and her plain-old Gwyneth voice, neither of which really fit her character. Worse is that she has little to do in the film but often go hysterical, which doesn't help the movie. Before you Paltrow fans hit the "Send Hate Mail" button, try not to forget Gwynny's performance in dogs like A Perfect Murder, Great Expectations, and Hush. It's just too bad she had to muck up a perfectly good movie like this one.
Jude Law and the rest of the supporting cast, particularly Hoffman as a boorish American friend who shows up midway through the movie, are good or great. The music, dominated by period (1950s) jazz songs, is also well-suited for the disturbing thematics of the movie. And let's not forget director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), who captures the beauty of Italy while coaxing some great performances from his actors.
On the sour side, Mr. Ripley's homosexual themes are awkward at best, and a few plot points (mainly Ripley setting up his alibi) seem to have been lost to editing, despite a 2:30 run time. As a thriller, this may seem long, but the mood is perfect and the film rarely drags. Altogether, it's a grand psychodrama. Perfect, you know, for the holidays.
Tons of extras on the DVD, including commentary from Minghella, trailers, interviews, and more goodies. Highly recommended.
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: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 106 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Anthony Minghella
Screenwriter: 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