I've seen only a few Woody Allen films and most of those were ones he made in the later part of his career. But they were enough for me to form in my mind, an image of a typical "Woody Allen movie". Match Point turns that image on its head. He stays behind the camera for this film and instead of making a comedy with himself at the center, delivers a film that begins as a drama and develops into a thriller. But he proves that he is as accomplished at this genre as he is in comedy.
Match Point is almost two different films in one(with the most amazing part being that neither of these 2 films is a typical Woody Allen film). It starts off creating some complicated relationships between an interesting set of people. Intelligent characterization and smart conversations dominate the proceedings here. We may not agree with what the characters do but with subtle but well-defined characterization, Allen makes sure that we understand why they do it.
The film could serve as an example for how a movie should be paced. It starts off at a leisurely pace while setting a Fatal Attraction-kinda triangle in place. It starts getting more rushed as it places its hero in an awkward place, giving him few options to get out cleanly. And towards the end, it turns into the kind of film that would've made even Hitchcock proud. While the movie holds our attention throughout, the pace is ratcheted up towards the end and there are a number of tense moments that get our pulses racing.
One of the most enjoyable things about the film is its unpredictability. Allen has a lot of fun toying with our expectations and things rarely play out the way we expect them to. One scene, involving a ring and a bridge railing, is almost exhilarating in the way it is picturized and is the perfect example of Allen's MO of setting our expectations a certain way and then almost gleefully breaking them.
Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous and inspite of playing a character with broad shades of gray, exudes a vulnerability that makes us sympathize with her. Emily Mortimer is at the other end of the scale. On the surface she is the perfect wife, with her husband's well-being being her topmost priority. But she is a nag and the way she nudges her husband along in the direction she wants makes her almost cunning. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers essays a rather complicated character who is confused about whether he wants a good life or a life filled with passion.