I've never thought much of Matt Damon as an actor, because his roles always leave me wondering just how good the movie could have been if another actor had been chosen for them. The Talented Mr. Ripley, however, is an agreeable exception to this rule, and showcases the range of Damon's acting with a story that covers love, murder, and everything in between. It's almost as if this film was specifically crafted just to give him a wide range of emotions to display. And he does it-- the character he portrays is a mind-bending chameleon, going from a lovable and hilarious goofball to a cold and calculating (spoiler alert) murderer later. He's a Walter White-like character who you KNOW should get caught, but you also secretly root for. When you can make an antihero that compelling, you have succeeded as a filmmaker.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is the story of Tom Ripley (Damon), a charming and charismatic young man who, through a freak turn of events, is enlisted by another man's dad to go to Italy and track him down, bringing him home. Ripley leaves for Italy, and tries to convince the man, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return, but the two end up joining forces against Greenleaf's father, spending his money and languishing in coastal villas. SPOILER ALERT! Everything begins to go sour when Ripley expresses his feelings for Greenleaf (gay gay gay gay gay), and eventually kills him Godfather II-style out of jealousy. After Greenleaf's death, Ripley assumes his identity and takes over his life. SPOILERS END HERE.
With a supporting cast the includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cate Blanchett (wow, I've watched three Blanchett movies in one week), this movie is superbly acted all around. This is one of those rare movies that sucks you in so much that you completely forget that you're watching a screen. I became completely immersed in the world created by this film, partly because of the characters and great acting, but also because of the beautiful and exotic locales, not to mention the cinematography. This movie is beautifully shot and edited, with seamless scene transitions, and the set design and seaside towns are a feast for the eyes. Honestly, if you'd rather watch shit explode in a Michael Bay or Brett Ratner movie than the great locations in this film, you don't deserve to watch movies. This is cinematography at its finest, to the point where the clearly defined characters and powerful acting is just icing on the cake.
The story is impeccable; a Richard III tale set in the modern age. With every step Ripley takes further into his web of lies, he dares the audience to continue down the rabbit hole with him. And even though part of you really wants him to get caught, you can't help but recognize the inescapable fact that he is, for lack of a better word, a genius. His expertly-crafted con is ridiculously complex and involving, and what's even more impressive is that he's making it all up as he goes along. Whenever he encounters an obstacle, his masterful and, yes, TALENTED way of working around it is always jaw-dropping. Several scenes challenge the audience to decide whether or not he's actually going to continue his facade or just give up, but spoiler alert: This is a man who never gives up.
Final Score for The Talented Mr. Ripley: 8/10 stars. A quiet, powerful, beautifully filmed suspense thriller that's just as intriguing as it is effortlessly entertaining. Its slow-boiling plot and three-dimensional characters turn it into a truly awesome powerhouse of cinema. This is precisely what movies should be like. But at the end of the day, it's somewhat depressing that The Talented Mr. Ripley was such a breath of fresh air for me. It does its job, it does it very well, and it doesn't do much else. And the fact that it garnered such an overwhelmingly positive reaction from me speaks a lot about the present state of film.