1 min

Believe it or not

Matt Damon is not simply a gay psychopath

WOULD YOU KILL FOR THIS? The Talented Mr Ripley's Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law. Credit: Xtra files

The Talented Mr Ripley is very talented, indeed.

As he tells his rich new friends, he’s good at lying, impersonating other people and forging signatures. That should have been a tip-off that maybe this guy was someone to watch out for, but director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) plays their underestimation of Tom Ripley for all of its tantalizing, hide-your-eyes suspense.

After a chance meeting with a shipping magnate, Ripley (Matt Damon), an impoverished and brilliant piano student, is dispatched to Italy to track down the man’s wayward son and bring him back to the US. Upon meeting Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), however, Tom finds himself desperately – even murderously – attracted to their sybaritic lifestyle and especially to Dickie, himself.

And what’s not to love? Minghella offers up a gorgeous sun drenched 1950s boho Italy complete with mopeds, jazz, porkpie hats and espadrilles. Law is prettier than Paltrow, perfectly inhabiting the role of Dickie, a fickle playboy who basks in Tom’s attention until he grows cruelly bored of him.

As Tom, Matt Damon is a revelation. His desire to rise above his circumstances, his prodigious talents and his attraction to Dickie make him sympathetic, even likable, to a point. Then he holds a smile a little too long and laughs a little too hard and becomes altogether too creepy. Still, he’s no cliché gay sociopath – his sexuality is played as just part of who he is, not his motivation for his various misdeeds.

Along for the ride is a splendid group of supporting players: Gwyneth Paltrow, who doesn’t have to do much other than play Grace Kelly’s plucky debutante from Rear Window, but she does it very well. And as a languorous rich kids on the grand tour, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (the obnoxious toff), Jack Davenport (the good homo) and Cate Blanchett (another deb with a fierce US accent) are absolutely terrific.

The Talented Mr Ripley is now playing.