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A Sociopath's Career Begins...,
This review is from: The Talented Mr. Ripley (DVD)
Patricia Highsmith's first novel of the Tom Ripley series, (five novels in all) The Talented Mr. Ripley, created an anti-hero that no one had ever seen before. The novel and film presents the story through Ripley's eyes, and even though the man is capable of terrible acts, and commits these terrible crimes relentlessly to attain his own aims, we continue to maintain sympathy for the character; we want him to get away with it, and he usually does. Anyone who has read the novel will agree that Anthony Minghella's screenplay remained faithful to the original, veering off on only a few points, however managed to achieve the same tension, disturbance and suspense, also leaving the audience wondering, after Ripley's final hideous crime, what will this sociopath do next.
The film and novel introduces the beginnings of a sociopath's career. For all we know, killing Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) brutally in the boat was Ripley's first crime. In the film it is almost depicted as an accident, emotions out of control, perhaps self-defence, but Mr. Ripley never acts without a goal in mind, there's purpose in his actions. In this case, coming from a lowly status in society and finally tasting the good life, was something Tom Ripley discovered he couldn't do without, thus, similar to most sociopaths, will commit any act in order to achieve their particular ends, including murder.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of this film comes from Tom Ripley's efforts to become or assume the identity of the man he has murdered. The man's talent lies in his ability to impersonate just about anybody and an amazing skill to spin a tale on his feet - he's convincing liar. Identity is the central theme of this story, but also the way in which we can re-invent ourselves from being nothing to being someone. Even though Ripley has come from lowly beginnings, he is self educated, plays and appreciates opera and classical music and the finer things in life. He is a man of taste, but it is a learned taste, an acquired sensibility. In the film we see Ripley constantly reading Shakespeare, learning Italian, teaching himself about jazz, etc. He is continually improving himself, which of course is admirable, but at bottom, Ripley is just a thug. He's a paradox: we want to like the man, we want him to get away with everything he does, yet at the same time we are appalled at his methods. Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley was truly unique and Matt Damon wonderfully portrays the young version of this character in the film.
This is a beautifully shot film of southern and northern Italy accurately depicting the country in the late 1950's. Minghella ensured time and care was taken with every frame and this certainly shows throughout the picture. The soundtrack is also a work of art including wonderful classic pieces, opera and 50's jazz.
As an avid reader and re-reader of all the Ripley novels, this film only added to the story's appeal, and motivation to crack its covers once again.