The movie, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” is a skillfully woven tale of charm, deception, and the perilous consequences of coveting a life beyond one’s own. The film introduces us to Tom Ripley, a struggling pianist whose mastery lies not only in music but in the art of forgery, lying, and impersonation. Tom’s journey turns sinister as he weaves an intricate web of deceit, using charm as his most potent weapon. However, beneath his sophistication and charisma lies a dark and manipulative nature, challenging the notion that charm is a reliable measure of character. 

When Herbert Greenleaf, a wealthy businessman notices Tom playing the piano at a party, Tom’s life takes an unexpected turn. On seeing him wear a Princeton blazer, and not knowing that he had borrowed it, Mr. Greenleaf mistakes him to be a Princeton graduate. When he asks him if he went to Princeton with his son, Dickie, Tom doesn’t deny it. Instead, he slyly takes on the persona of Dickie’s schoolmate. Falling under Tom’s pretense, Greenleaf bribes him to travel to Italy and persuade Dickie to return to the United States. Tom immediately accepts the offer, and from this point onward, we see how he charms his way into acquiring Mr. Greenleaf’s wealth by murdering Dickie, and conveniently outruling himself as a suspect. He guises his vileness under the false impression of his character. 

On his way to Italy, Tom meets Meredith, a rich, young woman. Drawn by him, she makes his acquaintance, and not knowing the consequences of his double-dealing, he introduces himself as Dickie Greenleaf. He arrives in Italy and meets Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge, and experiences their extravagant life first-hand. He befriends them and discloses how Dickie’s father bribed him to persuade him to return home. He quickly realizes that Dickie had no intention to go back home and that he only lived to spend his father’s money at luxurious cafes and jazz club parties. He works his way into Dickie’s life by pretending to be a fellow jazz lover. When he finds out Dickie’s secret affair with an Italian woman (who later commits suicide, knowing that Dickie would never marry her), he attempts to soothe Dickie’s guilt by assuring him that he would keep the matter discreet. Yet we see that hidden beneath his seemingly empathetic exterior is a manipulative and greedy charmer who would go to any lengths to make his way into the lives of those he envied. 

When Dickie’s close friend, Freddie Miles visits him, Dickie turns his attention away from Tom and overindulges Freddie. Tom begins to understand that he could never become like Dickie and attain the life he envied. He realizes that he was deceiving himself into desiring a life that charmed him, but it did not satisfy his greed or aspirations. On one of their travels to San Remo, Dikie and Tom go on a boat ride. Tom confronts Dickie about his lack of respect for his feelings. At this, Dickie expresses that he developed a dislike for Tom because he did not match his expectations of a carefree, and free-spirited person. He insults Tom by calling him boring. Outraged at this, Tom loses all self-control and beats Dickie to death. He quickly schemes a plan to cover the truth, and when Freddie confronts him, he kills him too. Tom’s dark side suggests that anyone is capable of heinous crimes, given their circumstances and motivation. It also serves as a reminder that it is difficult to rescue people like Tom from their shallowness and envy. 

Soon, the Italian police suspect him of killing Freddie. Tom quickly acts to escape their attention by forging a suicide note, signed under Dickie’s name, moves to Venice, and rents an apartment under his real name. When the police discover Dickie’s body, Mr Greeleaf hires a private detective, Alvin MacCarron, to investigate his death. When MacCarron uncovers some foul details about Dickie, Mr. Greeleaf requests that he drop the investigation. MacCarron decides not to reveal these details to the Italian police and asks Tom to do the same. In exchange for Tom’s immediate consent, Mr. Greenleaf thanks Tom by transferring a substantial amount of money from Dickie’s trust fund. Believing he attained his dream life, he goes on a cruise with Peter, his new lover. On the ship, Tom meets Meredith in Peter’s absence, and kisses her to distract her from Peter. Not knowing Peter sees him with Meredith, he goes to his room. When Peter confronts him, Tom slowly suffocates him to death, and the movie ends with Tom wholly overtaken by the weight of his guilt. By eliminating all suspicion against him, he succumbs to murdering everyone who could figure out his dark truth, as he believes it is the only way to cover his sins. Even though the story does not hint at Tom’s redemption, it turns our attention to how Tom painfully grasps the reality of his corrupted heart. 

“The Talented Mr. Ripley” is a compelling exploration of the deceptive nature of charm, unraveling the intricacies of human desire and the lengths one can go to attain their desires. While Tom’s abilities to charm and manipulate are enchanting, they can be a cloak for darker motives with unforeseen consequences. Tom’s descent into murder highlights the danger of idealizing and falling victim to a life based on appearances. We see how he deceitfully wields charm to cover his corrupted and guilt-ridden soul. In the end, the movie serves as a reminder that even if one could charm their way out of facing the consequences of their wrongdoing, they cannot ultimately escape from the clutches of a haunting guilt.


Written by Roselina Vundi