[box cover]

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Young Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is a struggling musician in New York who can only dream of a better world for himself, as he has few opportunities and no financial means to pursue his goals. But when he is mistaken by a shipping tycoon as a Princeton graduate, the wealthy man offers Ripley $1,000 to travel to Italy, find his playboy son, and convince him to return to America. Eager to take in some new scenery, Tom eventually locates the wayward Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), along with his fiancé Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), but he is immediately intoxicated by the warmth and lushness of the Italian coast, along with the carefree lifestyles of a privileged leisure class that he can never be a part of. Well, maybe never be a part of. Latching on to Dickie, the genial Tom moves in to his villa, and the pair soon spend their days sailing and sunning, and local jazz clubs become their shared passion. But, even though Tom and Dickie become constant companions and he forms a friendship with Marge, he is never able to come across as much more than a stray houseguest, being unable to ski or sail or speak Italian, and he often suffers rude taunts by Dickie's upper-crust chum Freddie (a brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman). It's only a matter of time before Dickie must ask Tom to return to America, but that moment causes a drastic turn of events, one that has the clever Tom running across Italy with enough papers and possessions to convince most people that he is Dickie. The only question is how long the ruse will hold up, especially as Tom becomes more and more emotionally unstable. Directed by Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), who adapted the screenplay from the Patricia Highsmith novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a superb psychological thriller that sets a high mark for itself, and for the most part hits it. Minghella simply is too smart a filmmaker to rely on shock value to create tension, and instead, as the plot develops, he draws from the great suspense-masters Hitchcock and Clouzot, who fabricated tension not only from large plotting arcs, but also from the smallest of details, and Tom's desperate attempt to assume another identity is troubled by various encounters and plot twists, all which contribute to his increasingly rapid downward spiral (both mentally and in terms of the story itself). Commonplace, well-lit places are the backdrop of Tom's ruse, where the slightest misstep can betray everything. Ripley also has noir connotations, as there is no actual protagonist in the film (the young man in question is deeply disturbed, and none of the other characters are much more than vapid, self-indulgent layabouts), and such a film — as few and far between as they are nowadays — invokes the hypnotic, irredeemable allure of such classics as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Paramount's DVD edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley continues their unfortunate habit of not titling "special edition" discs as such. Of course, DVD fans never appreciate it when sub-par discs adopt the SE moniker, but there's more then enough good stuff on board Ripley to qualify, and Paramount should let their consumers know it on the boxcover. Along with a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and audio in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround, features include an informative commentary track by director Minghella, the 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette "Inside The Talented Mr. Ripley," a video supplement on the making of the soundtrack (which is full of great jazz standards), interview segments with the cast and the director, two music videos, and two trailers.

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