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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/6/00

The Talented Mr. Ripley
1999 (2000) - Paramount

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Talented Mr. Ripley Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B+

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 thriller.

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.

Dan Kelly
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