The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

talented mr ripley poster 1999 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, interesting story, good cast

Long, slow paced

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Talented Mr. Ripley

Studio: Miramax

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  December 12, 1999 (Premiere)/December 25, 1999 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

talented mr ripley matt damon jude law jazz club

The good times will never end…right?

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) has a skill of blending in…he can literally become another person if the need arises.  When he is mistaken for a Harvard graduate, Tom is asked to travel to Italy and bring back his “classmate” Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) who is spending leisurely days on the water with his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow).  Tom puts his skill to use to insinuate himself into Dickie’s life and begins living the life of a jetsetter American in Europe.  In love with the entire idea of Dickie, Tom learns that Dickie is fickle and when Dickie decides he’s done with Tom, Tom finds the lies mounting up.  Tom is getting deeper and deeper…and the lies are catching up.

Directed by Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a crime-suspense thriller.  The film adapts the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith which was previously adapted as a Studio One TV production in 1957, Purple Noon (1960), and a modified version as Les Biches (1968).  The film was released to positive reviews and received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Jude Law), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

I loved The Talented Mr. Ripley when it came out and went back and took in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels and checked out some of the early appearances of “Tom”.  In concept, storytelling, and acting, The Talented Mr. Ripley remains a taut, smart thriller.

talented mr ripley tom murders dickie matt damon jude law

Murders have motives

The story works due to the time period and the luck of Ripley which seems to be a common theme in the movie.  Tom continuously gets lucky breaks, but he ends up always sabotaging himself through his previous actions.  Tom is a blank slate that feels like he is desperately trying to fit in.  When he meets a magnetic personality that seems to like him, he falls hook, line, and sinker.  Unfortunately since is such an outcast and Dickie Greenleaf knows his power over people, Tom falls into the trap of adoration of Dickie…which is confused with his sexual desires and leads to an unhappy mess.

This is film that solidified for me that Matt Damon wasn’t just a pretty boy who got a good break with Good Will Hunting.  His Ripley can be both shattered and broken but cunning and cold, and Damon is able to present it with a detached look he can deliver.  His mimicry of the other characters and his chameleon skills seem to come naturally to Damon.  He’s backed up by a great performance from Jude Law in a character that everyone knows.  Greenleaf is the guy who you feel good being in his presence, but his popularity is known to him and he abuses it.  Paltrow is good as the character who first trusts Tom then fears him, but Cate Blanchett is kind of the throwaway character as Meredith Logue.  In 1999, I was still trying to see Philip Seymour Hoffman not as his character from Boogie Nights, and I remember it was a challenge when he was much more like Tom Ripley in that film.

talented mr ripley matt damon philip seymour hoffman

Freddie, you’re going to get the irony of messing around with this bust for so long in a few minutes

The film is aided by the great location of Italy.  Covering cities all up and down the coasts, the film has a great look and shows the skill that Minghella also demonstrated for scenery in The English Patient.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a solid thriller but it feels like the thrillers of old days.  It is long and it is a slow burn at points, but it feels like the pacing is necessary to develop the relationships between the characters and set the scenes.  It also is the type of film which goes to show that even the most horrendous crimes have motives even if the motif seems flimsy.  Ripley explains it best in the film “you never meet anybody that thinks they are a bad person”…which makes Ripley and the film all the more terrifying.

Related Links:

Purple Noon (1960)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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