Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 7/6/00
The Talented Mr.
1999 (2000) - Paramount
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
138 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:21:02, in chapter
17), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director
Anthony Minghella, cast and crew interviews, 2 theatrical trailers,
Inside the Talented Mr. Ripley
featurette, soundtrack "making of" featurette, music
videos for My Funny Valentine
and Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano,
film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages:
English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and
French, Closed Captioned
Tom Ripley (Matt
Damon) is hired by Herbert Greenleaf, the wealthy owner of a
shipping business, to travel to the south of Italy and bring back
his son, Dickie (Jude Law). Once there, Tom introduces himself to
Dickie as one of his Princeton classmates. Dickie's initial
hesitation toward Tom is brushed aside when he finds out that Tom is
also a jazz aficionado. He and his fiancée, Marge (Gwyneth
Paltrow) welcome Tom warmly into their fold. Dickie and Marge are
living off of his father's money and spend their days relaxing on
the beach and in jazz clubs.
As Tom and Dickie's friendship evolves, Tom starts to emulate
Dickie, and he completely involves himself in Dickie's escapist
lifestyle. Tom's sly, inquisitive nature, which never comes off as
nosy or prying, works to his advantage as he pries into their minds
to satisfy his obsessive need to know. Before long, he's not so
innocently planting thoughts into their heads, making them question
each other's motives. Why he's doing this is a mystery.
Dickie soon grows tired of Tom's clinginess, but he accompanies him
to Rome as a sort of farewell trip. When Tom returns without Dickie,
Marge becomes worried and begins to suspect Tom's intentions. So Tom
escapes back to Rome, where he assumes Dickie's lavish lifestyle
unquestioned until Freddie (Philip Seymour Hoffman) shows up and
hounds him about Dickie's disappearance. And with each new
encounter, Tom's web of obsession becomes more and more tangled.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is the
second time the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name has been
brought to the screen. The first time was the 1963 French film
Plein Soleil, which was
released in the United States under the titles Purple
Noon or Lust for Evil.
Perhaps her best-known work to make it to the screen is Hitchcock's
masterful Strangers on a Train.
Much of Highsmith's work explores similar themes of envy, jealousy
and extreme obsession, and English
Patient director Anthony Minghella's brilliant
translation of the novel makes this a very involving and compelling
Damon is effective and eerie as he goes through different stages of
lust and obsession with those he encounters. I was a little hesitant
upon hearing about Damon being cast as Ripley, but doubts were
quickly cast aside after the first few minutes he's on camera. He
did cocky self-assurance so well in Good
Will Hunting that I didn't know if he'd be able to pull
of a part that required such a high level of multi-dimensionality.
But his Ripley is equal parts pitiful, sad, enthusiastic, endearing,
frightening, lovable and angry.
Jude Law is also good as the spoiled, bratty Dickie, who wants so
badly to believe that he despises his rich upbringing. Cate Blachett
has a small, but pivotal role as Meredith, an American acquaintance
of Tom's who is the polar opposite of Freddie - completely trusting
and unsuspicious of Tom. Oddly enough, I found Oscar winner Gwyneth
Paltrow's performance to be the weakness in the bunch. Her change
from sunny and loving to cold and uncaring seemed too forced and
sudden to be persuasive.
On DVD, the video quality of The
Talented Mr. Ripley is very nice. This is a new movie, so
the print used for the transfer is of pristine quality, and the few
problems that are present are a result of the transfer itself. Flesh
tones are warm and smooth without being too saturated, and the black
and shadow detailing is solid and without defect. There is some
occasional grain apparent in the transfer, which leaves some of the
blue areas a bit spotty looking, but otherwise this is a very
good-looking picture that perfectly compliments the lush
cinematography of John Seale.
The 5.1 audio mix makes good use of the entire sound system to
create an immersive field, but overall it felt like a rather
reserved soundtrack. When all the channels are used, they are
effective. Panning effects are used well in different scenes (such
as Dickie traveling on his moped, or the flight sounds of pigeons
and seagulls) and the mix is lively and exuberant when Dickie and
Tom are at the jazz club. Outside of that, the shining moments in
the soundtrack are only brief and not at all what you would expect
from a newer film. Still, dialogue is always clear and concise, and
there were no distractions at all in the sound mix.
Lately, Paramount is proving themselves capable of providing some
very nice extras on DVD, and The Talented
Mr. Ripley (along with Sleepy
Hollow) is a continued step in the right direction.
Minghella's running commentary, though a bit long-winded at times,
is very insightful into his directorial choices. He talks at great
length about the problems and obstacles that present themselves when
filming a period piece. His commentary sounds very much like a man
who loves his work. The featurettes (one on the music, one on the
film itself and one with cast and crew interviews) are also
informative, but the film featurette plays very much like a
promotional piece. I found the cast and crew interview segment,
which runs about 10 minutes in length, to be the most
attention-grabbing of the three. This was obviously assembled from a
press junket, but the information shared is relevant and
informative. The music featurette provides a look at the importance
of music, particularly jazz, to the authenticity and feel of
The Talented Mr. Ripley. There
are also trailers (in non-anamorphic widescreen), which are in good
shape, as well as two music videos, which offer a tad more than what
was shown in the film itself.
I'm happy to see Paramount take a much more active role in the
release of their films. Fans of The
Talented Mr. Ripley will appreciate the small but
informative set of extras on the disc and Hitchcock fans I'm sure
will get a kick out of Anthony Minghella doing his best Hitchcock
impersonation. The Talented Mr. Ripley
is a good film with an impressive presentation on DVD.