In a well crafted but ultimately un-affecting adaptation of the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith, "The Talented Mr Ripley" features Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, a social maladroit who assumes the identity of playboy socialite Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law).
He travels to Italy to persuade Dickie to chuck his life of sun, sex and jazz and return to New York; a mission generously funded by Greenleaf's despairing father (James Rebhorn).
But Ripley is seduced by Dickie's lifestyle - and everything else about him. A sexual desire is awakened that evolves into a compulsion to possess him entirely.
When Dickie tries to shake loose of his grip, Ripley panics and, in a shocking fit of violence, takes the life he yearns for.
From here, Ripley must preserve the fantasy of being Dickie Greenleaf while traversing Greenleaf's social circle. These include his fiancée Marge (a routinely demure Gwyneth Paltrow) and bloated blabbermouth, Freddie (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
But in a starry line-up it's Jude Law who commands most presence, playing the charmer so well that his absence in the latter half leaves a gaping void.
While Damon offers a focused portrayal of Ripley's spiritual demise, the script affords him little room to elicit sympathy. The strength of Highsmith's novel is that it draws on a universal need for love and acceptance, but Damon's Ripley disconnects with his audience early on.
Rather than appeal to our commonly held insecurities, Ripley's social awkwardness feels insidious from the outset. As the plot becomes more involved, his fears and insecurities resonate even less.
Consequently, the impact of Ripley's final realisation, and of the film in its entirety, is diminished.
"The Talented Mr Ripley" engages interest, but director Anthony Minghella rolls it to the finish in neutral, failing to achieve the grand scale promised by its sweeping visuals. It's as if, like Tom Ripley, the intrigue simply overtook him.