The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
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I can't remember that last time I felt my heart jerked like this in some time. Well that is a lie, I do remember. The last time would have had to of been when I saw: Match Point. So let's get the 'if you liked/hated' bust out of the way and say if you liked Woody Allen's Match Point, I can't see why you wouldn't ultimately like this. Not that they're AT ALL the same, nor do I have some sort of expertise on the matter. I just know the rare feeling Match Point gave me is the same this movie gave me. It sets so many moods and it does it with such finesse you find yourself begging for more and more in a devilish fashion you'll catch yourself many times wondering why you're rooting for Mr. Ripley.
The movie is only 2 hours and 20 minutes or there abouts. But it feels like a lifetime. Not the sort of lifetime when you're waiting in the DMV. The sort of life time where you experience, learn, and think about through your life. Not to say this film is a learning experience. But it IS an experience and it will fill a hole in your film-going life for that thick-plot, character ran, and dark trenching void you may have. I can't think of a film that quite compares in sequence of events, twists, character development, character inclusion quite like this.
Every character is important, every event is important, and everything you think is pretty null and void. Or possibly that is just me.
It should be heavily noted that this film STARTS SLOW, as many have said and probably judged it that way. I'd say it picks up speed around the 15-20 minute mark and it roller coasters from there. And let me tell you, when it accelerates, it seriously doesn't know how to stop and personally, I never wanted it to stop. This is the sort of film where not even the most annoying person can scream at the film, because you're too tight lipped about everything going on and you'll most likely find yourself wanting Ripley to keep going. And when I say Ripley, I really mean the movie.
And the movie doesn't stop, it keeps going. Even after it's over, you will be doing a mental tango of all the information you have received and trying to sort out all the pieces. And trust me, there are pieces. If you go to watch this film to just watch a 90's flick, you're doing it wrong. You will probably find the movie a flop of just dark moments led by lies and deceit. (Which it really is). But to those who went to watch this film because we wanted to know why there was so much mixed hype about this 1999 film, we should have all noticed there were the smallest bits of puzzle pieces and the biggest amounts of twists that really made this film what it is.
I don't even like Matt Damon, I personally have a biased grudged towards the guy and his movies. But I'd have to say, it's tough to choose between his performances here and Good Will Hunting. He, along with the entire cast will tug at heart strings you never thought you had. There are the strings for romance, thrillers, and horror. These strings are the one's collecting dust and sometimes never see the light of day for a life time. It's rare to come across a film that seems to have everything and goes about it like it's nothing, like it doesn't even seem to care if you're watching or not, because it all is going to happen with or without you. It's truly it's own living, breathing, and dark entity.
Watch this film if you want a film that will bake in your brain for the days, weeks, maybe months to come. It's not to late to bring this movie back up into lunch-time conversation in the new century.
There have been some people who think Matt Damon is too colorless here. In Clement's adaptation, that might have been true, but the point here is Ripley is SUPPOSED to be a nonentity, a blank page waiting to be filled(thus lines like "I always figured it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody," or when Dickie Greenleaf(Jude Law) tells Ripley that with his glasses on, he looks like Clark Kent) by someone like Dickie. Ripley may have been pretending from day one(which is how he gets to meet Dickie in the first place), but there was nothing sinister about it, just a bunch of little white lies. It's not till he gets entranced by the life in Italy, and Dickie's life in particular, and then finds himself shut from it, that things happen. And Damon is excellent at going through the transformation(and it's not just the glasses, as one comment suggested, it's the hair, the clothes, and the whole attitude).
Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, probably my favorite critic today, liked the film, but he thought it would have been better if Damon and Law had switched roles. Again, if Minghella was remaking Clement's version, sure, but not this way. If you want someone to be an object of desire, you better make sure they're desirable, and Law is quite good there, along with showing the layers underneath. Gwyneth Paltrow has the tougher role, because she has to be both smart and able to be fooled, but she pulls it off, especially in the scene when she tells Tom she really knows what he is. Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman are also good in small roles, James Rebhorn is dependable, and Philip Baker Hall makes a memorable cameo.
One more thing; there have also been complaints that the first half is too long, and the ending is weak. The first half not only sets up Ripley's slowly falling in love with Dickie's life(and even Dickie), but also sets up some plot points which pay off later, so it's necessary. And when Ripley finally becomes The Talented Mr. Ripley, it's unsettling and still delivers a perverse kick. As for the ending, without giving anything away, it's the only way it could end; he goes on, but at what cost? This is terrific moviemaking.
Matt Damon played this three-dimensional character so well that I almost became a huge fan of his. Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, whose identity Tom Ripley steals was very good as well. The movie is shot in Italy, moves at a leisurely speed and is very atmospheric. One of my all time favorite thrillers.
The main reason why The Talented Mr. Ripley works so well is that it's central characters are deep labyrinths that beg to explored and analysed. Every scene is rich with double meaning and character interactions that exist under the surface of the drama we are seeing on screen. The character of Tom Ripley is a true masterpiece of characterisation indeed. This sociopath, that would rather be "a pretend somebody than a real nobody" is a myriad of contradictions and muddled personalities. His actions are always amoral and through his lies and deception, it is obvious that he doesn't care at all for anyone around him. However, despite this; we are still able to feel for him through his tribulations. The story is told in such a way that it is difficult to feel for any of the other characters and all of our sympathies lie with the talented Tom Ripley. This puts the audience in a strange situation, as we're used to hating the antagonist and feeling for the protagonist, but this film turns that on it's head, and to great effect.
The film is helped implicitly by the fact that it's one of the most professionally made films ever to make it onto the screen. Every scene, every action, every line uttered is done with the greatest assurance and nothing at all in the film appears to be there by accident or out of place. The way that the characters interact with each other and their surroundings is always believable and we never question anything that is shown on screen. Anthony Minghella's direction is more than solid, and this is helped by the stunning photography, courtesy of 1950's Italy. Many a film has benefited from Italy's landscape, and this is one of them. This is all great, but it's the performances that put the final finishing touch on this amazing masterclass of film-making. As mentioned, the talented Mr Damon takes the lead role and completely makes it his own. He often gets coupled with his friend, Ben Afleck, when it comes to acting; but this is very unfair as Damon is one of today's brightest stars. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow make up the other two leads. I'm not the biggest fan of either of these two stars, but both, like Damon, give performances here that will always be associated with their personalities. Cate Blanchett has a small role, but the real plaudits for the smaller performances go to the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who steals every scene he's in.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is one stunning piece of film. Ignore the people that don't consider this one of the 1990's greatest achievements; they are wrong. The film is a masterpiece of tense situations, great characterisation and professional film-making. And I refuse to hear otherwise.
Matt Damon portrays the mysterious Mr. Ripley, who, more or less, remains a mystery throughout the film. I was intrigued at how, when you first see him on screen, you are given the impression that he is nothing more than a shy, innocent, and intellectual young man who pretty much keeps to himself. However, this image is only visable for the first five minutes or so, and is virtually shattered once he accepts the offer to go to Italy in search of Mr. Greenleaf's son, Dickie. I was fascinated at how rapidly his personality altered, and suddenly I understood that he was rather odd, as he deceived Mr. Greenleaf in the first place by wearing a Princeton jacket and pretending that he knew Dickie. Now, I haven't explained this entirely, as those of you who have seen this film know, as I am not writing this to create a summary of the plot, but rather to give my comments. Basically, Mr. Greenleaf saw Ripley playing the piano at a wedding wearing a Princeton jacket, and since his son also went to Princeton, he asks Ripley if, by any chance, he knew Dickie. Of course, since Ripley never went to Princeton in the first place, he couldn't possibly have known Dickie. Despite this fact, however, Ripley says that he did know him, and that they were friends. As soon as he says this, he manages to get himself in a deep hole of trouble as Mr. Greenleaf asks him to go to Italy to try and retrieve his son, as he couldn't do it himself due to that fact that Dickie wouldn't listen to his father following a serries of arguments.
I thought that the acting was brilliant, especially that of Jude Law (Dickie) and Matt Damon. I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of the film, and I felt that all the characters were believable in their own ways. I believe this to be a splendidly clever story, which is well written and directed. I thought that the music playing during most of the film was excellent as it matched the strange, eerie atmosphere of the story beautifully.
I would like to conclude this review by saying that this is a very good movie with an unusually unpredictable ending; it's nice to see a movie that doesn't finish perfectly for a change.