‘Ripley’ Netflix series review: Andrew Scott consummately nails 50 shades of grey 

Steven Zaillian’s adaptation of Ripley, captured in shades of black and white, with just a hint of red, stands apart from Anthony Minghella’s color-drenched 1999 movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on the same 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith. Zaillian’s series presents a stark contrast with its crisp monochrome visuals, as opposed to the sun-soaked vistas of Minghella’s film, which starred Matt Damon as the titular character.

Ripley

Episodes: 8

Run time: Between 44 to 76 minutes per episode

Creator: Steven Zaillian

Starring: Andrew Scott, Johnny Flynn, Dakota Fanning, Vittorio Viviani, Bokeem Woodbine, Eliot Sumner

Storyline: A cunning scam artist finds himself in a world of opulence and luxury in Italy. As he strikes a deal to attempt to bring a rich man’s son back to the States, deceit becomes his ladder to a coveted lifestyle.

The original film paraded a cast of luminaries such as Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, encapsulating the jet-set glamour of the late 1950s.

Zaillian, who took up writing and directing duties for Ripley, drew inspiration from his edition of the novel, which bore a black-and-white cover. According to him, this choice captures the foreboding nature of the narrative, contrasting Minghella’s suggestion of hidden malignity beneath a beautiful façade.

The opening scene of Ripley sets a grim tone with a man dragging a corpse downstairs. We soon find ourselves in the 1960s New York with Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott), who’s surviving off small-time scams in his dingy apartment. When a detective comes knocking, Ripley fears his past has caught up with him, but discovers he’s been sought out by wealthy magnate Herbert Greenleaf (Kenneth Lonergan) for a task in Italy.

Mr. Greenleaf’s wayward son, Dickie (Johnny Flynn), is frivolously spending his trust fund across Europe, harboring dreams of being a writer or artist. Mistakenly believing Ripley to be an acquaintance of his son, Greenleaf tasks him with convincing Dickie to return home. Viewing this as his ticket to a better life, Tom seizes the chance and heads to the sun-soaked Amalfi Coast.

Upon meeting Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning), an author, Tom starts basking in their affluent lifestyle. Soon, he becomes determined to latch onto this source of wealth, even if it involves committing the ultimate sin.

In Ripley, ominous signs abound—the steep steps in Atrani, the malfunctioning elevator in Rome, and Tom’s own shadow ominously cast on the beach upon meeting Dickie—all symbolizing Tom’s rise through society’s ranks.

The storyline also intertwines with the history of the Italian artist Caravaggio, known for his dramatic usage of light and dark, much like the series’ visual style. Tom’s escapades echo the artist’s own fugitive years, with Tom even bearing a resemblance to Caravaggio during his stay in Venice.

Zaillian’s Italy is a mosaic of art, opulence, and decay, basking in a ruthless sun. Building his tale on aesthetics, locations and a fusion of music genres, Zaillian’s series is anchored by Andrew Scott’s interpretation of Ripley—a performance chilling in its insincerity and magnetism.

While others in the cast, like Eliot Sumner’s portrayal of the dissolute Freddie Miles and Maurizio Lombardi as Inspector Pietro Ravini who investigates the tragedies trailing behind Tom, enrich the story, it is Scott’s captivating portrayal that stands at the forefront, charming and frightening us in equal measure.

The series is rife with suspense and delivered with breathtaking scenery, but it’s Scott’s mesmerizing performance that truly sets it apart.

Ripley is now available for streaming on Netflix.

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