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This to me is the greatest and most beautiful rendition of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley, so far – and yes, that includes Anthony Minghella’s Oscar-nominated version from 1999. In her novel, Highsmith takes American impostor Tom Ripley on a fateful journey to Italy in search of Dickie Greenleaf whose father owns a shipbuilding empire; where he must wake him up from his beachside fantasies and get past his cynical lover Marge. This adaptation by Steve Zaillian, who wrote Schindler’s List and created The Night Of for HBO, does have some irritating ticks but also faithfully reproduces the most memorable moments from this cerebral story that changes along with its protagonist played here by Andrew Scott.

One thing you’ll notice about Ripley immediately is that it is beautiful—if you can say as much about a series that begins with its titular character hauling a dead body down stairs. Cinematographer Robert Elswit shoots in black-and-white as an homage to timeless Italian movies released around Tom’s 1961 visit to Amalfi Coast. (One of them, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, even lends its title to Episode 4.) And framing – ah! framing. Comparing Tom’s escapades with Caravaggio while skillfully working in Dickie’s (played by Johnny Flynn) love for painting into the narrative are something Zailian does very subtly throughout the film script resulting in swoon-worthy visuals provided by Elswit.Meanwhile,the play of light and shadow is consistent with Caravaggio paintings.Elswit himself gets flexy at times even modeling shots after sculptures and paintings referenced on the show.All this is just – whew! I am such a shameless aesthete; my TV screen was almost getting kissed off.

The second thing you’ll notice about Ripley is that it’s a very unusual cast. First of all, this is not to say that Scott or Flynn did poorly, actors in their early forties playing characters who were originally envisioned as being in their mid-20s. But Scott would be an intriguing toaster; so 35 is not exactly pulling off a difficult trick. Worthy of note is the fact that Zaillian has tilted the screenplay more into his own favor thereby creating a much mature and self-controlled Tom Ripley who was already paying rent through medical-billing frauds when he was introduced and had to change his identity altogether after some bloody consequences. Meanwhile, Johnny Flynn fits the role of Dickie like a glove, giving him a gruff air of mystery that matches Dickie’s love-hate attitude towards Tom. The real question mark here is Eliot Sumner as Freddie Miles: he doesn’t really do anything with it besides play it Britishly.

As with Scott’s age, the script bends to fit this alteration but not quite as naturally. Sumner is hardly a convincing choice for what Highsmith once described as “the sort of ox who might have beaten up somebody he thought was a pansy,” resulting weak tension in pivotal scenes.Zaillian tries to make it up by suggesting (and rather weirdly) that Freddie might possibly be homosexual.He also left out any winking and narration which would have given Scott more room to play with his character hence producing a flatter, psychotic interpretation of Tom. However, at least there are certain possessions whose significance remains intact from book to screen: “nice pen” might as well be Ripley’s unofficial tagline.

Highsmith would squirm in her grave over some of these misalignments, but the other decisions Zaillian makes actually contribute to the story. The remaining cast is great, with Maurizio Lombardi playing a no-nonsense police detective. Dakota Fanning plays Marge as the sympathetic and complex character she is, a gravity the book occasionally lacks. Alongside its intense visuals Ripley uses sound to meticulously contribute texture to each scene. In fact, if you watch any episode’s end credits all the way through, you’ll get little audio hints at what’s to come in the next one.

Those clues should be cherished!! However, despite being on Netflix in full-length films, it works best for moderation when dealing with Ripley. There are no gimmicky cliffhangers at the end of each episode to spur you on so take some time before you start the next one . This kind of meticulous artistry deserves equally attentive viewing.


This will be a joyous novel-to-screen adaptation for fans of The Talented Mr. Ripley; however certain creative choices are bound to raise eyebrows. If this is your first peek into this tale then prepare for a visual and audio feast led by Andrew Scott who does justice even though he sometimes strays from Tom Ripley more than Highsmith’s original text does . On a craft level ,Ripley is peerless – easily the most beautiful TV show of the last five years.Have your cake and eat it too taking ample breaks between episodes, and once again wait till after rather than before reading the novel if you haven’t already done so.

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