Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Italy/United Kingdom/USA, 2002. Baby Films, Cattleya, Mr. Mudd. Screenplay by Charles McKeown, Liliana Cavani, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Cinematography by Alfio Contini. Produced by Simon Bosanquet, Ileen Maisel, Riccardo Tozzi. Music by Ennio Morricone. Production Design by Francesca Ventura. Costume Design by Fotini Dimou, Raffaella Fantasia. Film Editing by Jon Harris.
Years after he originally showed us his talents by killing and assimilating his best friend, Tom Ripley (John Malkovich, at the very peak of his slithering form) lives the high life in a beautifully restored villa situated in a tiny Italian hamlet. He has retired from his life of thievery and murder, but his past comes back to haunt him when a former contact (Ray Winstone) he screwed over for big cash arrives in search of a favour. Winstone wants Ripley to kill a business rival of his, but Ripley suggests a more innocent, unknown person would be better for the job, a local picture-framer (Dougray Scott) who is dying of leukemia, and Scott agrees to do the job because he figures the money would be good for his family. The job’s tasks multiply when Winstone shows up to employ Scott again in more assassinations, so now Ripley has to decide whether or not he will stay away from the situation completely or keep an innocent man from getting himself and possibly his family killed. Helping him would mean getting involved in some dirty business, but Mr. Ripley has always maintained his ability to stay above the mire no matter what the situation. The one thing he says he has learned is that we are “constantly being born”. An economical script and stylish direction by Liliana Cavani, director of the notorious The Night Porter, make for a marvelous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel (previously filmed as The American Friend by Wim Wenders), one of a series featuring her devilishly likable protagonist. The character has gone from confused youth to debonair, icily exacting survivor, and the development is a fascinating and cinematically exciting one. Lena Headey has a terrific supporting role, and the cinematography is gorgeous.