It seems just about every second Woody Allen film that comes out these days is greeted with the comment A return to form for Allen, even if the body of evidence would suggest that Allen is not making any more flops now than he has at any other point. This was especially so in regard to Match Point, which may well be Woody Allens strongest film in several years. (Allen himself has called Match Point the best film he has ever made). In the mid-00s, Allen moved his production base away from New York City, where he has shot almost every film he has ever made, to England and various European locations, citing the difficulties in getting a film made in the US without creative interference. The English locations of which Allen takes a number of opportunities here to show off as a picture postcard location seem to have reinvigorated Allen. To the contrary, Match Point is not so much a strong return to form for Allen so much as it is a change of direction for Allen. It is similar to the rest of his work in the sense that Woody Allen is still centring his films around well-to-do upper-class families and anguish over adultery that have become his favourite preoccupations throughout the 1990s here he has merely substituted New Yorks rich elite for Londons. On the other hand, with Match Point Allen veers away from comedy for one of the few times in his career and tells a morality play.
The shadow of Fyodor Dostoevskys Crime and Punishment (1866) hangs over Match Point Jonathan Rhys Meyers is even seen reading a copy of Crime and Punishment at one point. Like Crime and Punishment, Match Point has a poor protagonist who engages in an act of murder, believing in the moral justification for his actions. (Unlike Dostoevsky and Crime and Punishment, Woody Allen is more interested in the amorality of Jonathan Rhys Meyers character and does not engage in redeeming him or showing him wracked by guilt as Dostoevsky did). The eventual murder which in both works includes the elimination of an innocent party as a witness also has many similarities to Crime and Punishment. It should be noted that the story of a man who is drawn between his wife and a woman he is having an affair with and is eventually driven to murder lest his guilty secret come out also appeared in one of the stories in Woody Allens earlier Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), while Allen told a very similar story about murder and conscience in his subsequent also London-set Cassandras Dream (2007).
Match Point takes its time to get into full stride at 124 minutes, it is also the longest film that Woody Allen has made to date but the last half of the film is one where Allen eventually comes to impress considerably. Allen takes great delight in a resolution that deliberately plays against expectation [PLOT SPOILERS] the same thing he did in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) in opting for a deliberately downbeat ending by introducing two detectives (James Nesbitt and Ewen Bremner) and having them stumble upon Jonathan Rhys Meyers guilt, only for Allen to then play against classical thriller convention by having them decide otherwise.
Match Point does hold a minor fantastique element with Jonathan Rhys Meyers encountering the ghosts of his murder victims in one scene. This scene is not unakin to Love and Death (1975) where Allen also notedly parodied Dostoevsky and Russian literature in which a ghost appeared to Allens character with portents but the advice proved ineffectual. Likewise here, the ghosts appear and offer a grim portent that Jonathan Rhys Meyers must heed his conscience and pay for his crimes, only for this to turn out not to be the case at all.
As always, Woody Allen manages to obtain some great casting. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays with a handsomely cool arrogance a part that Rhys Meyers with cold blue eyes pulls off the perfection. All the others play well, especially Penelope Wilton who often steals a number of scenes. However, the most captivating performance of the show comes from Scarlett Johansson. Johansson presents a complex, well-rounded character and captivates the entire show whenever she is on screen. She is clearly someone that Woody Allen is enamoured with he also cast her in his two subsequent films. Here he allows Johansson to entirely sizzle during the charged table tennis game where he introduces her and presents a number of her other scenes with an eroticism that he has never shown with any of his other actresses.
Woody Allens other films of genre note are: Play It Again Sam (1972), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), A Midsummer Nights Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), New York Stories (1989), Alice (1990), Shadows and Fog (1992), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Scoop (2006), Midnight in Paris (2011), To Rome with Love (2012) and Magic in the Moonlight (2014).