April 12, 2024

Ripley review: Andrew Scott is captivating as the talented killer

Ripley is a new Netflix series starring Andrew Scott as the talented killer and con artist, and while the pace is slow over eight episodes, patience is rewarded in a show that is both a twisted thriller and a rich character study.

Tom Ripley made his debut in the crime novel The Talented Mr. Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 Ripley, the first of five books she wrote about a character who intrigued and frightened readers in equal measure.

That first story – which serves as a sort of origin story for the character – has been adapted several times. First on celluloid with the 1960 French film Plein Soleil, starring Alain Delon. And most famous in the 1999 American version, in which Matt Damon so memorably played the title character opposite Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Now Netflix is ​​getting in on the Ripley act, via a miniseries both written and directed by Schindler’s List writer Steven Zaillian, with All of Us Strangers star Andrew Scott playing a chilling central role as the killer you don’t see coming.

What is Ripley about?

Hewing closely to the story and structure of the source material, the show opens in New York, where Tom Ripley is busy running a scam involving dodgy checks and a fake debt collection agency. But the time is short and Tom lives a lonely and isolated existence.

That changes when a private investigator working on behalf of the wealthy Greenleaf family comes along with a great opportunity. The Greenleafs worry about their son Dickie, who sails and drinks around Italy, avoiding all responsibility.

Thinking Tom is Dickie’s boyfriend, they make an offer he can’t refuse: they go to the Italian town of Atrani on the Amalfi Coast and bring their son back. In return, the Greenleafs pay travel expenses, expenses and even a salary. This means that at the end of episode 1, Tom convinces Dickie (Johnny Flynn) that they are more than just acquaintances who met at a party years ago and then promptly moved into his apartment. And steal his most beautiful pen.

Dickie’s girlfriend Marjorie Sherwood (Dakota Fanning) is immediately suspicious of their devious intruder. Just like their friend Freddie Miles (Eliot Sumner), who quickly smells a rat. But poor, sweet, innocent Dickie doesn’t see the threat or sense any danger, and that trust in nature is ultimately his downfall.

Who is the talented Tom Ripley?

Ripley is a great thriller during the first few episodes of the show. As the trial progresses, the series delves further into Tom’s psyche. The character is at the center of every scene, encouraging the audience to see events through his eyes and disturbing worldview.

Ripley also exists in the shadows throughout the eight episodes, spending some of the time looking longingly – or suspiciously – through doors and windows, watching a mundane existence that remains steadfastly out of his reach.

Ripley is not feeling well and seems to enjoy making the people around him feel that discomfort. He’s also a master manipulator, able to bend those same people to his will and then deal them out when they get close to the truth, or catch a glimpse of the real Tom Ripley, making the character both a fascinating protagonist and a very is an alarming antagonist.

One that is captivatingly brought to life by Andrew Scott. The Irish actor became famous when he played the literary villain Moriarty in Sherlock. But here he keeps the histrionics in check and delivers an understated performance that is both charming and creepy, often in the same scene. And sometimes in the course of a single sentence. You won’t like Tom Ripley. But you won’t be able to take your eyes off him either.

A steady pace that can be frustrating

Scott delivers a mesmerizing performance, his Ripley slow, deliberate and deliberate – words that could be used to describe the show itself. The first half of the series focuses on Ripley’s crimes, while the second half revolves around the investigation into those misdeeds. They both take their time.

Long conversations and interrogations follow. Multiple scenes where characters climb endless stairs and then walk down them. And even a whole series dedicated to a man who changes a light bulb.

This stately pace certainly increases the tension, especially as the net approaches Ripley. Sometimes it seems like the lack of speed is what the show is about; a meticulous study of the gruesome act of murder, followed by the practical – and time-consuming – task of cleaning up the resulting mess.

But this pace will also likely test viewers’ patience, especially during episode 3, where a big event takes place, and episode 5, when everything goes a little weekend at Bernie’s. Both episodes are beautifully shot, one in bright sunshine during the day, the other at night, in scenes filled with a healthy dose of German Expressionism. But these important episodes also feel like they’re being unnecessarily delayed.

Is Ripley any good?

Tom Ripley is a monster, and Steven Zaillian’s scripts expertly place us in that monster’s shoes. And worse, in his head. But it’s a tribute to Zaillian’s writing and direction – as well as Highsmith’s brilliant creation and Scott’s performance – that eight hours with this freak is bearable, sometimes entertaining, and sometimes even enjoyable.

The show spans multiple genres throughout its run, from the aforementioned psychological thriller that turns into police procedurals, to a healthy dose of film noir and even scenes that play like an Italian travelogue. Naples and Venice are shot in crisp black and white, as cold as the show’s protagonist. Although there is only one hint of color – at the end of episode 5 – which proves to be a truly inspired closing image.

The music and fashion also make Ripley a feast for the ears and eyes. The score is used sparingly, with silence being key to the story, but the show is also supported by beautiful American and Italian music from the period. While the sharp suits, stylish jackets and beautiful beachwear are simply to die for.

Ripley Score: 4/5

If you can handle a show that meanders around at a snail’s pace, Ripley is a compelling character study of a very bad man.

All eight episodes of Ripley are available on Netflix today (April 4, 2024). For more titles new to streaming, head here.

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