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The Talented Mr. Ripley: 5 Thoughts I Had While Watching The Movie For The First Time

Jude Law and Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

I sometimes watch movies just with the intention of writing articles about them, which was my initial goal when I decided to watch all five of the Tom Ripley movies. Now, because I have movies sent to my house from Netflix (yes, it's still a thing), I sometimes get movies out of order from how I put them in my queue, which was the case when I received 2002's Ripley's Game first, rather than 1960's Purple Noon, and, well, I hated it! It's definitely no The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is by far the most famous adaptation of the Tom Ripley character.  

Starring John Malkovich, Ripley's Game features a rogue of a "hero," but I just didn't find it all that compelling. In fact, I fell asleep, and I had to start over again from the middle just to finish it. But, The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is definitely one of the best Matt Damon movies, is a tour de force, and, in my humble opinion, the best movie of 1999, which is often considered Hollywood’s greatest year. I actually just came to this conclusion recently since I had never seen The Talented Mr. Ripley before, until just the other day. So, here are five thoughts I had while watching the exquisite Matt Damon movie for the first time.     

Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Tom Ripley Is A Really Fascinating Character Who I Want To Learn More About Through The Books  

I honestly didn't know that Tom Ripley movies are kind of like James Bond movies. What I mean by that is, I didn't know that Tom Ripley actually got his start in a series of books and that several different actors have portrayed the character. And really, why would I? 

Yes, pretty much everybody has at least heard of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but how many people have heard of Ripley Under Ground, or Ripley's Game? Honestly, I probably wouldn't have even known that the Tom in The Talented Mr. Ripley is meant to be the same as in Ripley's Game, because unlike Bond, where the character has similar traits in all of the movies, Matt Damon and John Malkovich act completely differently in their respective films.   

For one thing, it is obvious that Tom is gay in The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is actually a focal point of the film since he is in love with Dickie. But, he is only implied to be bisexual (and very subtly; you wouldn't even see it unless you looked) in Ripley's Game. That said, this makes him a very nuanced character, because he also willingly (and easily) kills in Ripley's Game, which is the third book in the series, but it's much more difficult (emotionally speaking) for him to kill somebody in The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is the first book in the series. 

This is why The Talented Mr. Ripley makes me want to read the entire series now! The character seems super compelling, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is just so damn good, really makes me want to learn more about his character. Because who knows? Perhaps instead of Bond, we can compare Tom Ripley's actors to the Jack Ryan actors, as they all feel dramatically different, which makes me even more excited to read the books.   

A smiling Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Matt Damon Can Do Some Really Great Impersonations, And Also Plays An Excellent Villain  

Throughout The Talented Mr. Ripley, Matt Damon showed his true acting chops, as he really transformed himself, especially when he did impersonations of other characters in the film, such as Jude Law as Dickie. I mean, I couldn't believe it. It wasn't just his voice, either, but also his mannerisms and facial expressions. Matt Damon played an amazing con artist who could truly embody another person, which fits the narrative, of course, since Tom pretends to be Dickie Greenleaf throughout much of the movie.

But, he also plays a tremendous villain. I knew this already because of his role in The Departed, but I had no idea just how good a villain Matt Damon could be. It's because Matt Damon just seems so likable. Tom Ripley seems like the kind of gee-golly-gosh guy who would refrain from swearing in front of children, and would lower his eyes at a woman wearing a bathing suit. So, you would never suspect that a man like this would kill somebody and then put their body in the trunk of a car.     

But, that just makes him even scarier. Because even though he kills out of what he believes to be necessity, he still sees it as a viable option, and even kills people he might want to be close with if it means his crimes might be uncovered. Fascinating stuff! 

Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr. Ripley

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

I've Always Thought That Cate Blanchett Was A Fantastic Actress, But This Movie Made Me See That She Is One Of The Greatest 

Cate Blanchett won a well-deserved Academy Award in one of Leonardo DiCaprio's best Martin Scorsese movies, The Aviator, when she portrayed Katharine Hepburn. So, I already knew that Cate Blanchett was an excellent actress. She played Hepburn as empowered, but also deeply insecure, and it was a side of her that I wouldn't normally attach to Blanchett, as the role (I'm sad to say) that I most associate her with is Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, which, believe it or not, isn't even Blanchett's favorite Marvel movie, though she starred in it!      

That said, in Thor: Ragnarok, she plays the most badass adversary that Thor had ever seen prior to Thanos, so I always thought of Blanchett as powerful. But, in The Talented Mr. Ripley, she plays somebody incredibly meek and vulnerable as a rich girl who says she despises money, and what comes attached to it.  

She is utterly smitten with Tom, and it's almost hard to watch him break her heart. Little does she know that she has fallen not only for a gay man, but also somebody who isn't even who he says he is (she thinks he's Dickie). It's a performance of a lifetime, and one that has now cemented Blanchett, in my mind anyway, as one of the greatest actresses of all time. 

Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Italy Is Even More Beautiful Than I Imagined 

Honestly, I know very little about Italy. If I close my eyes and imagine Italy, I see the Colosseum, the Parthenon, that it's shaped like a boot, and gondola rides in Venice. But that's it. So, truth be told, everything I really know about Italy is from movies like Luca, and now also The Talented Mr. Ripley

But man, now I really want to go after seeing this movie. Because The Talented Mr. Ripley, which is thematically a very dark picture, is visually very bright and beautiful. The town of Mongibello is apparently fictional, but the movie was filmed in Positano, which is apparently by Naples, and it's utterly stunning. The Descendants made me want to go to Hawaii (still haven't, unfortunately), and now, The Talented Mr. Ripley makes me want to go to Italy. Posthaste! 

Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr. Ripley

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Director Of The English Patient And Cold Mountain Could Actually Do An Enthralling Thriller If He Wanted To 

Lastly, do you want to know the most boring film I've ever seen in my entire life? Well, like Elaine from Seinfeld, I also despise The English Patient. And, when I watched every movie to ever win Best Picture, The English Patient was one of the films that I had the hardest time getting through because it kept putting me to sleep over and over again. You want to know another movie that I didn't like? Cold Mountain. Now, I didn't dislike it as much as I disliked The English Patient (I don't think that's even possible), but it also put me to sleep. So, I definitely was not engaged. 

But, when I finished The Talented Mr. Ripley and checked to see who the director was, I was kind of shocked to find that it was the late Anthony Minghella, as The Talented Mr. Ripley was anything but boring like The English Patient. When looking through his filmography, The Talented Mr. Ripley stands out since it's a psychological thriller, and no other film of his really falls into that category. It just goes to show that a talented director can direct actors in multiple genres. I just wish Minghella decided to do more movies like this before he passed.

Are you a fan of The Talented Mr. Ripley? For news on other great movies, make sure to swing by here often.   

Rich Knight
Rich Knight

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.