Acclaimed actor John Malkovich takes on the role this time of Tom Ripley, the chameleon whom now lives in a mansion in Italy with his beautiful wife and lush aristocratic lifestyle. An old acquaintance from the past returns to his life, and asks that he help him knock off enemies. Ripley wants no part of it, but he does have someone in mind who will, with the right persuasion. Ripley is one of the main characters of this story, someone whom we follow throughout the story. He’s a sick, demented character through his humble facade. Ripley twists and turns everything for his own benefit.
Though highly unlikely to seem evil, through his unthreatening facade lies a cold and calculating evil, the living embodiment of the devil who masters everything and everyone to his own liking and how he pleases. He manipulates with a poker face and never shows emotion, guilt or perspiration. He almost seems to enjoy it, like a sense of mastering his life. He has everything he wants and he plans and schemes to get it, yet never looks back. He keeps everyone he likes in his corner and manipulates people that he has no use for, and if he has no use for them, he will ruin their life… and he always comes out unscathed in the end — always. Malkovich is at his best when he plays villains, and he is at his best here with a performance that makes you despise him.
Yeah, you despise him throughout the film, but then you learn to love to hate him, because Malkovich makes you love him. He makes Ripley a puppet master, a crafts master, one who controls everything through his sick and twisted mind. Poor Jonathan, a man who is dying of Leukemia, a man who is but a simple shop keep becomes a poor unwilling pawn in Tom’s game. The game is what he calls life, plans for people, and Jonathan is in a corner but doesn’t realize it. Through Tom’s suggestion, Reeves (Ray Winstone) approaches Jonathan as a false character proposing to him to kill an enemy, thusly Jonathan refuses repeatedly and almost frantically.
Understandingly frightened that he’d face a world of trouble he couldn’t possibly get out of, but when Ripley helps strike his vulnerable spots dealing with his inevitable death, Jonathan agrees and pulls it off, but then he’s threatened into another murder, one which is too big for him, and now Tom must intervene, but whom does he help? Jonathan or himself? We never learn that up until the climax. The intense Dougray Scott plays Jonathan, the vulnerable and desperate family man who is clinging to his life. Scott is excellent as Jonathan, the desperate and very frightened man who is scared to tears of murdering someone, being murdered, and getting tangled in a web of trouble.
But sadly, he’s involved through Ripley’s game… as the title suggests. See how it all comes together? Surely, echoes of Hitchcock become inevitable through the tangled plot twists, inspired directing, and great characters, but the director leaves his own mark on the film, one which is so elegant with beautiful scenery but is ever the more chaotic beneath the surface. Ultimately, “Ripley’s Game” is a surprising film with so much going for it including a lot of intrigue in Hitchcockian proportions and characters that are never black and white, only shades of gray. While they might be interesting they’re not the best people to root for, and in “Ripley’s Game” there’s no true character to root for, only a story which twists and turns until the very end.