"The Talented Mr. Ripley"

Take away the hype that has surrounded this film, with the big promotional guns vying for oscar nominations, and you have a well told, well constructed film that has mystery, atmosphere, considerable tension and a set of well-drawn characters.

What I found particularly satisfying was that it surprised me. I went in expecting a conman manipulating a group of vulnerable rich people. But the conceit of the story was that the Mr. Ripley of the title (Matt Damon) was not at all in control of the events that lead up to his using his skills to, literally, get away with murder -- or, at least, to try to.

He is, in effect, as much a victim of circumstances as the others who so well fill this canvas of lying and deceit against a background of wealth and all its glamorous accoutrements (cast includes Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is fantasy gone amuck, greed overpowering decency, calculation supplanted by miscalculation.

Especially successful is Jude Law as Dickie, a role that makes credible his character's near universal magnetism for all who enter the spaces of his world. The story revolves around someone who can command that kind of charismatic charm, and Law pulls it off in spades.

Gwyneth Paltrow, for her part, is convincing in a role that incorporates a good deal of complexity, especially in the subtleties of handling her lover's disappearance and a gradual awakening to the likely circumstances that brought it about. She's good.

This is a character-driven thriller, Hitchcockian in its suspense, relentless in its plot turns. It has a high content of immorality, as exemplified in homoerotic sexuality and murderous ambition.

This is fine filmaking and storytelling. Forget about all the oscar contending, the Hollywood buzz. Go and enjoy. It's so well done, it lingers in the mind.

Directed by Anthony Minghella.

Rated I, for Impressive.

Update, 2/16: There were 5 nominations for this film, including Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jude Law) and Best Screenplay!

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