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The One-Line Summary: In the 1950s, after bathroom attendant Thomas Ripley (Matt Damon) borrows a Princeton blazer to play the piano at a Manhattan rooftop garden party and is mistaken for the friend of a wealthy man’s son Dickie Greanleaf (Jude Law), he’s offered money to travel to Europe to convince Dickie to come home, though instead becomes enamored with the luxury European lifestyle and Dickie himself, using his impressive skills as a forger and impersonator to sustain a deadly lie.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a dizzying Hitchcockian thriller that is a powerful character study about a man who is undeniably evil yet enigmatic and charming, conscious of his actions and desperate for affection, embroiled in a fast-paced world far out of his league. Both Damon and Law are chilling, delivering some of their best work, though Damon finds the perfect pitch as he portrays a number of characters and personalities, sometimes boyishly naive and others menacingly frightful, carrying the film.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about suspicion and begins when Ripley arrives in Rome and cleverly convinces Dickie that they knew each other at Princeton, even though Dickie doesn’t remember. Dickie fiancée Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) invites him to dinner and soon the three are pals, where Ripley meets another (real) friend from Princeton, Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is opaquely cold and contemptuous about Thomas. Meanwhile, Ripley further ingratiates himself into Greanleaf’s life to the point of claustrophobia for Dickie, which sours their relationship and culminates in a confrontation at sea.
The Four-Line Moment: Ripley is a master of impersonation, able to mimic many people’s voices and mannerisms almost on the fly, which he did to impress Dickie early on, using his father’s voice. Later on, this ability has allowed him to actually pretend to be Dickie, taking up a lifestyle that he could never afford on his own. Stealing Dickie’s identity, he takes up residence in a lavish Greenleaf apartment, furnishing it with expensive though conventionally aristocratic furniture and amenities, even having the staff call him by his adopted new name. When Freddie stops by, looking for Dickie, he notices things aren’t quite so right, especially the “bourgeois” decor, which is nothing like Dickie’s style, but worse how Thomas has seemingly taken on the appearance of his friend, with a new hairstyle and fashion sense. Ripley sees that Freddie is suspicious and his cold, calculated smile is unnerving to watch, revealing that Thomas, as a creature, is set, the monster within him now wholly consuming all that he once was.
The Five-Word Review: Delicious, suspenseful, must-see film.