The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital Egypt
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Anthony Minghella (Director)
Running Time 133:23 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew
Featurette - Inside The Talented Mr Ripley (21:.35)
Featurette - Making The Soundtrack (8:00)
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Menu Audio
Music Video - My Funny Valentine (2:32)
Music Video - Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano (3:07)
Scene Selection Audio and Animation
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (82:46)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Anthony Minghella
Miramax Films
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Matt Damon
Jude Law
Gwyneth Paltrow 
Cate Blanchett
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Case Ghastly button thing
RPI $34.95 Music Gabriel Yared

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 320 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Just like Snow Falling On Cedars, The Talented Mr. Ripley was one of those films that for some reason had an attraction to me which I have difficulty explaining. This attraction manifested itself in my going so far as to get hold of the Region 1 version, which naturally arrived the day before the opportunity to preview the forthcoming Roadshow Home Entertainment Region 4 release came up. As a result, I have been in the rather unfortunate position of watching a film twice in quick succession that ultimately I find very much a piece of garbage. One of the things that I was dimly aware of in regards to The Talented Mr. Ripley was that critical opinion seems to have been pretty much split amongst those who loved the film and those who hated the film. After having now watched the film a few times, I can understand why this is a film that will undoubtedly polarize opinion - although to be blunt I would think more will fall into the hate category than into the love category, which is not to suggest that the film is not very well produced - which I readily admit it is - but merely that the story is one that may not sit well with a lot of people.

    Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is a nobody who wants to be a somebody ("I would rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody"), but has little means to drag himself out of the basement life that he has - as a bathroom attendant of all things - and does not like. His one great gift is that he can impersonate others, and he uses this ability to really become a fake somebody. Filling in as an accompanist to a classical vocalist at a society bash in New York, he wears a borrowed jacket - from the Class of 56 at Princeton. Amongst the attendees is a certain wealthy ship building magnate whose son also attended Princeton in 1956. By not being forthright in stating how he came to be wearing the jacket, Tom ends up with a little task: to go to Europe (specifically Italy) to encourage the magnate's son, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return to the United States - all expenses paid, with $1,000 on top for his trouble. In 1958, that was a lot of money. Dickie is your basic typical bored, rich kid with far too much money and time on his hands and far too little inclination to do the work to earn the money that he has the privilege of throwing around in Italy. He would rather spend time playing on his yacht with his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow), and generally playing the part of the rich American playboy in Europe, and so Tom finds himself heading to Italy first class by Cunard Lines to meet a guy he would not know from a bar of soap and try to encourage him to return to the good old USA. Along the way he interestingly meets Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), a real somebody who desperately wants to be a nobody - and the film heads of in spectacularly turgid fashion down a fairly predictable route of a lie compounding a lie and, in order to keep up a lie, things get far more complicated than they really should be.

    This story is well and truly fleshed out by just about every cliché that you can think of about poor rich kids bumming it in Europe. Tom uses his ability to impersonate to become close to Dickie, and learns all the wrong things about what the life of the rich and bored is all about. Dickie is two timing (at the very least) Marge, and this results in at least one dead young Italian woman, unable to live with the fact that she is pregnant to Dickie. Doing the tourist thing in Rome, Dickie meets up with a similarly over-indulged rich kid friend, Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and things start to go awry for Tom. Already in cahoots with Dickie to scam money out of daddy back home, Freddie starts to see through Tom and a wedge starts to be driven between Tom and Dickie. This ultimately leads to an unfortunate accident in a boat that allows Tom to become Dickie and really start compounding lie upon lie, especially as he is now enjoying a lifestyle that he would truly kill for: apartments in Rome and Venice and all the accoutrements of the spoilt rich kid lifestyle. As the disappearance of Dickie starts to close in around him as suspicions gather strength, another unfortunate victim is found and Tom falls easily into the life of a spoilt rich kid murderer. But there is a twist in the end, courtesy of the fact that we all have little skeletons in our closet and it seems Dickie's were just a tad bigger than most - hence the reason why he is actually in Europe. Tom reaps the rewards but the return of Meredith perpetuates yet another minor elimination along the road to true madness.

    Having partially suffered the worst of the British class system as a child, as I went to school with many who would later become prime candidates for the bored rich kid syndrome, I am aware of some who did indeed spend their days living the rich playboy life in the Mediterranean. The American class system is even worse, except that they don't admit to having one whilst the British actually celebrate it in many ways. Accordingly, the subject matter is one that I am actually familiar with - and one that I really do not find of the slightest interest in a film. I am quite certain that the book upon which the film is based is a very good one, but sometimes I think that "the studios" forget the reason why we watch films: to be entertained. I watch films for entertainment and this is not entertainment. Watching this sort of stuff is hardly considered to be entertaining unless it is in preference to watching weeds grow, no matter how well it is done. There is no doubt that director Anthony Minghella has done a grand job here - except in perhaps not being quite as judicious as necessary in paring down the screenplay he wrote into something a little more livelier in pace.

    There is no doubt that this is in general a quite superbly-acted piece, most especially from Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both of whom do a fine job in convincing us of the believability of their playboyish characters. The usually superb Gwyneth Paltrow is perhaps not quite so superb here, but remains very convincing as the welcoming girlfriend who slowly becomes colder and finally accusational as the disappearance of her beloved Dickie bites deeper. Matt Damon does perhaps far too well in the role of the manipulative and conniving Ripley, especially in evoking some of the stirrings of homosexuality in his relationships with Dickie and Peter - or is it just a chameleon changing his spots to suit the situation? Cate Blanchett gets stuck with something of a minor role here, which is a great shame as she plays it well indeed and always deserves more screen time. Whilst the setting is Italy in 1958, and I am completely unfamiliar with the year or the location, being born in 1959 and only ever managing to get to Venice briefly, the images certainly create all the right impressions of the playground for the nouveau riche from the United States, and Anthony Minghella has certainly used them very well indeed. Nicely evocative images are beautifully complemented by a jazzy score that certainly adds to the aura very well indeed.

    Overall, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a near-period piece that just fails to convince, owing to the length not being sustainable by the material in the screenplay compounding a subject matter that I find less than entertaining. Others may find a lot more here to enjoy, but this just evokes all those hatreds that I thought I had left behind many years ago when my family emigrated from Blighty. I would hardly call the film entertaining, and for all the greatness in the cast and the images, this is not something that I would willingly be returning to any time soon.

Transfer Quality


    After a sequence of Roadshow Home Entertainment transfers demonstrating a generally significant improvement in visual quality, this comes as a major disappointment indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst I may be wrong, I am guessing that director Anthony Minghella may have filmed this is in such a way as to imitate the style of colour films of the late 1950s, where an over-richness in the tones was not uncommon and oversaturation was usually just a few frames away. Whether by design or by fault, the transfer nonetheless exhibits just about everything I find problematic about colour films of the late 1950s. Whilst the image is not especially sharp, it is a fairly naturalistic looking effort apart from the odd instance where what appears to be edge enhancement seems to be a problem. With the image not being as sharp as perhaps it should have been, some of the gorgeous detail that should otherwise have shone here (inside Tom's apartments for instance) simply does not, and this is a great shame indeed. There are few more beautiful cities on earth than Rome and Venice, and the scenery along the Italian coast is legendary, but you would not know it from the images that are presented here. I really feel that the transfer should have been a lot sharper, and that the film is hampered because it is not. At times, shadow detail was just a little lacking, again a bit of a disappointment. This is anything but a clear transfer and this is what leads me to suggest that the transfer reflects a style of film that was deliberately being sought: grain seems to be a consistent problem in the transfer that I ultimately found to be distracting and bothersome. There did not appear to be any real low level noise problems in the transfer, although they could of course be masked by the grain problem.

    As suggested, the tone here is a little over-rich, which is especially used to highlight the bronzed bodies on the beach, for instance. Overall, I felt that the colours were just a little too forced in terms of tone and the result is something that just does not evoke a natural feel at all. There is a decided lack of vibrancy in the colours, again perhaps evoking the style of late 1950s colour films, and this becomes a problem at times when there simply is insufficient contrast in the image. This is noted in scenes such as those at Dickie's house where there is a decided lack of contrast between the foreground and the background garden that really gives a distinctly two dimensional look to the image. At times the image could have done with a lot stronger depth to the black and white tones, and you may find it beneficial to adjust your television contrast just a little to view this DVD. Oversaturation appeared to be on the verge of breaking out big time on a couple of occasions, but thankfully it was controlled enough not to become a problem. There was a distinct problem early on in the film as Tom plays the piano inside the theatre, well overlit by bright blue light (notorious for oversaturation problems). Colour bleed did not appear to be a problem here.

    There are no readily apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are however some real problems with film-to-video artefacts throughout the transfer. Whilst there was nothing that in itself that would be considered bad, there is a consistent problem with shimmering in the transfer that simply becomes too apparent early on and hampers the image throughout the transfer. This was especially noticeable in scenes involving horizontal lines - which are extremely prevalent in the film, unfortunately. Since this is a very recent film, film artefacts were not much of a problem here at all.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change coming at 82:46. It is a nicely placed change that is not really noticeable and does not disrupt the flow of the film at all.


    The default audio track on the DVD is also curiously underwhelming, although it does have to be said that this was unlikely to be a demonstration disc anyway given the style of the film.

    There are three audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and the Audio Commentary soundtrack, whilst briefly sampling the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand, although there was some judicious use of the volume control on a couple of occasions.

    There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Gabriel Yared, but this whole film is dominated by the rather cool jazz on offer. As a result, Yared also invokes a lot of jazz style into the orchestral score and this ends up as a very jazzy feeling soundtrack that evokes the coolness of the late 1950s and early 1960s in Europe. Some of the jazz stuff is really terrific and both Jude Law and Matt Damon get to sing a tad here, and in the case of Jude Law, play a little sax. It is a really nice soundtrack that does not sound dated, despite using the music so tied to the period. This is about the one area in which I could indulge in this film again, and it is a real shame that there is no isolated music score on offer here.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack suffers a little from some over-resonant and slightly extraneous bass at times, but is otherwise quite decent. Surround channel use is not spectacular at all, and the film really suffers from the lack of great rear channel ambience in many scenes, the cafe on the plaza being a good example. Bass channel use was rather restrained in general, although there is not much scope for usage here as this is very much a dialogue-based film. The overall sound picture is reasonably natural, although it perhaps could have benefited a little more from better use of the front surround channels. Other than that, this is a typical soundtrack with nothing much to elevate it above merely being good.


    One area where Roadshow Home Entertainment have made real advances is in their extras packages and this one is no exception - at least in quantity.


    Reasonably well themed, as usual from this source the menus are 16x9 enhanced and presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. They have some nice audio and animation enhancement in general.

Theatrical Trailer (2:00)

    A typical modern theatrical trailer that is probably distinguished by the fact that it uses excerpts out of context to provide something of a false impression of what will be going on. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Dolby Digital Egypt trailer

Audio Commentary - Anthony Minghella

    To be blunt, I have not listened to this all the way through as I simply found the guy too boring. I don't especially like these things anyway, and this is a good example of why. He waffles on about things without actually providing anything really interesting to say. In many respects he spends too much time explaining what is going on, thereby assuming that we are all dummies who will never understand the film. Nice premise.

Featurette - Inside The Talented Mr Ripley (21:35)

    A typical behind the scenes look at the making of the film that ultimately is okay without being memorable. Presented in a Full Frame format with bits in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nice that we have it but I would not miss it if it was not there - there really is not a whole lot of interesting stuff in the making of a film like this.

Featurette - Making The Soundtrack (8:00)

    A fairly bland look at the composing of the soundtrack, mainly comprised of a lot of self-congratulating by two guys who obviously think the world of each other (Anthony Minghella and Gabriel Yared). Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There is nothing here that I would call memorable at all, and it is about seven minutes too long in my view.

Music Video - My Funny Valentine (2:32)

    Matt Damon proves he can almost sing when accompanied by the Guy Barker International Quintet. This is just the full length version of the song that is in the film and it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Hardly riveting stuff.

Music Video - Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano (3:07)

    Both Matt Damon and Jude Law prove they can almost sing when accompanied by the Guy Barker International Quintet, with Jude Law also blowing his sax pretty well. This is also the full length version of the song that is in the film and it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Better (nice up beat number) but still hardly essential.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release misses out on:     These would hardly be considered devastating omissions (the interviews are hardly noteworthy other than the fact that black-haired Gwyneth Paltrow looks very much different to what we have expected before), but nonetheless it is a little disappointing that we miss out on some of the Region 1 package. Given that I personally find the Region 1 transfer to be slightly better than the Region 4, I would think the call is marginally in favour of Region 1 - but it would be a very close call.


    Anthony Minghella comes to this film on the strength of The English Patient that garnered a bundle of Oscars. I really think I will give that film a miss if it ever gets released in Region 4, on the strength of The Talented Mr. Ripley. I do not find this entertaining, both in terms of length and in terms of subject matter, and the transfer leaves something to be desired.

    A pretty good video transfer but with plenty of annoying problems.

    A pretty good audio transfer.

    A decent extras package, unless you are looking for quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
6th August 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL