Anthony Minghella absolutely knocked it out of the park with this taut and quite faithful adaptation of the first entry in a series of noir thrillers by Patricia Highsmith.
Set in the 1950s, Tom Ripley is a young, bisexual man whose only real talents in life are forging handwriting, impersonating others, and running second-rate scams. He makes his way in New York as a men's room attendant and occasional pianist, but, after being mistaken for a Princeton grad, he comes into contact with a shipping tycoon named Greenleaf who offers Tom $1,000 plus expenses to go to Italy and convince his wayward son Dickie to return home to the States.
Tom sets out on this task, but after befriending Dickie and spending lots of time with him and his lover Marge, he becomes dangerously envious of the carefree and lavish lifestyle lead by Dickie, and after his advances are rejected, Tom decides he'd rather become Dickie instead of continuing his life as it was. After impulsively murdering DIckie and assuming his identity, he finds himself playing a dangerous game in order to cover his tracks and keep the truth hidden.
Aside from greatly expanding on a minor character from the book and creating a whole new one for the movie, this is a wonderfully accurate and faithful take on the source material. It's a very taut and gripping psychological thriller, and the cast masterfully bring the characters to life. Matt Damon is tremendous, and successfully goes against type as the psychopathic con man with serious issues when it comes to identity and a sense of belonging. He's quite chilling, and you really feel on edge as he tries to pull off the task of becoming someone else.
Jude Law is marvelous as the arrogant and brash Dickie, and he really sells the carefree hipster persona of the character. Gwyneth Paltrow is really good as Dickie's lover Marge, although I feel she really gets overshadowed by everyone else, namely Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dickie's friend Freddie Miles, a really slimey and highly suspicious worm who barely conceals his contempt for the tormented lower class Ripley. It's a marvelous performance, and a real tribute to his talents, as Freddie is probably the most loathsome character here.
The production values are top notch, the cinematography and location shooting are absolutely gorgeous, and the film is really strong when it comes to delivering the tension, suspense, and thrills. This is a classy and wonderfully engrossing thriller that you should definitely make a point to see.