On the surface, Anthony Minghella's flick seems merely like "Single White Female" with a gender-reversion and more exotic locales. Dig a little deeper though and you'll find a rather complex murder thriller told from the perspective of the killer whom we find ourselves eventually sympathising and cheering along with.
There is no good guy trying to stop a bad guy, this time the good guy IS the bad guy but unlike something like "Payback," this hero's motives are far more murkier and complex than merely revenge. The acting front is solid throughout though most of the supporting cast is kind of plain.
Paltrow is in a part which could've been played by pretty much any actress, basically a repeat of her "A Perfect Murder" role though with less gusto. Blanchett and Hoffman handle the roles of very stereotypical upper-class Americans abroad perfectly, complete with an annoying loud voice and need to interfere.
Law plays the egotistical decadent playboy to a tee and convincingly makes one hope he ends up with a horrible fate. By doing so however it also makes one wonder though what is it that Ripley admires in Dickie and wants to be like so much. This is certainly Damon's movie and one can easily see the actor worked as hard as hell in the role. Ripley is a very unusual character who gets a taste of the high life and then when it threatens to be yanked out from under him, begins a complex web of deceit and murder to keep the fantasy alive.
The settings are beautiful, with exquisite and almost romantic scenery acting as a surprising contrast to the dark homicidal central theme of the flick. The homoerotic undertones are relatively subtle (it only gets to about the same level you'll find on "Xena"), and in fact make the final scene of the film more sad and poignant.
Then there's the gore which comes in spurts but when it does it is quite a jarring contrast to the scenes before. The main problem with the film though is the pacing which for most of the first half is grindingly slow, then shifts into various gears throughout the second half. This is certainly no fast-paced nail-biting thriller, but much rather a slow-paced intriguing drama very reminiscent of Hitchcock films.
Minghella has created a lustrous looking movie with a darker edge than what it appears to have on the surface, and various forms of subtle undercurrents which will leave you thinking long after you've left the cinema, themes that will upset some though intrigue others. Its a class act production and it shows.