Star Rating:

Ripley 16+

Streaming On: Watch Ripley on Netflix

Season: 1

Episode: 8

Actors: Andrew Scott, Johnny Flynn, Dakota Fanning

Release Date: Thursday 4th April 2024

Genre(s): Crime, Thriller

Running time: 480 minutes

He appears, at first, in a dank bedsit in New York, trapped in a prison of his own making and eking out an existence marked by desperation and petty criminality. Even though he seems meagre and trodden, there's an endless calculation about him that seems to suggest this is all just lulling you into a false sense of security and that he can be managed and pigeonholed into an easy explanation. 'Ripley' is one of the few adaptations that feels like it's in direct conversation with previous ones, from the casting right on down. Indeed, you can't fully appreciate what Steven Zaillian without having seen Anthony Minghella's 'The Talented Mr. Ripley', or René Clément's 'Purple Noon'.

Where Jude Law's Dickie Greenleaf was endlessly charismatic and soaked up the screen with his presence, Johnny Flynn's performance is decidedly more nuanced. Where talent and good looks were carefree and easily come by, Flynn plays Dickie with a kind of sullen reservedness that fundamentally changes what we think of his relationship to Scott's Ripley. Previous adaptations have drawn on the obsession and the unspoken desire, yet here it's played more like a coiled snake and prey waiting to pounce at the right moment. Indeed, how everyone interacts with the titular character is markedly different. It's almost as if everyone can see and sense there's something off with him, but it's never quite defined enough for it to stick.

This is particularly apparent in Dakota Fanning, in the role previously held by Gwyneth Paltrow. Where hers was a passive and ultimately tragic Marge Sherwood, playing the wronged woman with a stiff dignity, Dakota Fanning is far more petulant. Both Fanning and Flynn's characters are unremarkable in their chosen talents; she's an average-at-best writer, he's a poor painter, yet their mediocrity is sustained by their apparent wealth and privilege. For Ripley and Andrew Scott's portrayal, it's less about them squandering this as it is simply them getting in his way towards the opulence he feels he's entitled to.

Far and away, 'Ripley' is all centred on Andrew Scott's performance. While he may have broken into the popular consciousness with 'Sherlock', playing Moriarty with a diabolical glee, there was a playfulness to it that tempered it. Here in 'Ripley', he's closer to Hannibal Lecter. His movements and manners feel studied so as to remain human-like, while his every choice and action is guided towards clearing people out of his way. Again, when in comparison with Matt Damon's portrayal of the same character, you see a vulnerability and a terrible desperation that makes him almost relatable in a pathetic kind of way. Even when he murders Jude Law's character, it's done out of a frightening rage of being pushed into a corner - yet here, it's almost as if he's been waiting for the chance to bludgeon him to death from the first moment they met. It's absolutely terrifying, and being around it for eight episodes, it sinks its claws into you.

This is helped by the studied and measured pace that Steven Zaillian sets up every scene in every episode. Characters fuss over minute details; we see Ripley squeezing out blood from a scarf, we later see a coroner stitch up wounds following an autopsy, a detective taps out his cigarettes in the exact same way, all of it reminding us that we're creatures of habit and the habits tell us so much more than clunky exposition. For Ripley, he tosses things into bins and letterboxes without even regarding them in the slightest. The choice to shoot in black-and-white throughout the eight episodes again speaks to previous adaptations, where the sun and the glamour was as much a character as anyone else.

It may be that 'Ripley' is far too pensive for its own good, that it takes too long to get going and when it arrives there, it feels somewhat anticlimactic and somewhat underwhelming. That may be the point, but for those expecting fiery theatrics and dramatics, they're going to be disappointed and more than a little frustrated. It requires a patience and a willingness to accept that it's an interpretation that is trying to set itself apart from others. As a character study and as a showcase of Andrew Scott's talents, it's second to none.