A star rating of 4 out of 5.

"Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence," wrote thriller queen Patricia Highsmith in The Talented Mr Ripley.


This feels particularly key in the new eight-episode adaptation of the novel, titled simply Ripley, written and directed by The Night Of maestro Steven Zaillian.

Those familiar with the story will not be shocked by the series' premise. The chameleon-like Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott) is employed on a mission to persuade the wayward American scion of a shipping dynasty, Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn), to return from his life on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Once there, Ripley and Greenleaf strike up a friendship, to the concern of Dickie's girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning), but soon their friendship takes a dark turn and Ripley sets out to preserve his new luxurious lifestyle by any means necessary.

Unlike Anthony Minghella's breezy-paced sun-drenched 1999 feature adaptation, Zaillian utilises the longer form of eight episodes to produce an unnerving, slow-burn thriller that stretches out every last morsel of suspense.

Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley sat on stone stairs reading a newspaper in RIPLEY.
Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley in Ripley. Lorenzo Sisti/NETFLIX.

One might worry that the series loses its source material's glamour with the black-and-white cinematography but this does not feel like a pretentious surface-level choice, instead an atmospheric triumph with gorgeously composed shots adding a true cinematic sheen.

Zaillian's embrace of a rather cold and sterile atmosphere in his direction is matched by Andrew Scott's quietly venomous turn as Ripley. Unexpectedly, Scott's Ripley seems less charming and more openly scary in his emptiness, with one questioning how Dickie would ever be taken in by his attempts at friendly demeanour.

The one downside of the series is the absence of strong chemistry between Scott and Flynn's characters, which while maintaining an uncomfortable aura that only grows until it explodes into shocking scenes, makes the continued presence of Ripley in Dickie's home somewhat unrealistic. Why would anyone keep this Ripley around?

The series comes alive in its masterpiece third episode which is a true study of on-screen tension as Tom and Dickie head out on a trip that takes an incredibly tense turn.

Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf sat in black in an armchair in a black-and-white still from Ripley.
Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in Ripley. Courtesy of Netflix

Importantly, Zaillian excels in these prolonged sequences of tension, which continues in the fifth episode in a stand-off between Scott's Ripley and a wonderfully icy Eliot Sumner as his nemesis Freddy Miles.

The episodes remain visually delightful throughout the run as the action moves from a gothic New York to the idyllic Atrani to the dark streets of Rome to the watchful statues of Palermo to the renaissance glamour of Venice, all anchored by a devilish Scott who ably jumps from Ripley's various personas.

Another highlight of performance has to be from Dakota Fanning as Dickie's lover Marge Sherwood, an ambitious writer who remains as suspicious of Ripley as her book counterpart and vastly different to Gwyneth Paltrow's smiling society darling in the 1999 film.

Fanning offers an understated but intelligent turn as a heroine poised to potentially bring down Scott, with Ripley's hatred of her feeling justified by such a worthy opponent.

Dakota Fanning sat in a chequered shirt as Marge Greenwood in a black-and-white still from Ripley.
Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood in Ripley. Stefano Cristiano Montesi/Netflix

The love triangle element of the novel is more understated here than in Minghella's much more overtly Queer adaptation, but Highsmith's implications of Ripley's ambiguous desires for a life with Dickie still come to the fore here, mostly through Scott's skilled work.

Aside from some slight plot alterations, Zaillian's love for the source material truly shines through with characters appearing highly accurate to their literary counterparts and the execution mirroring the mercurial psychological traits of Ripley's character.

This run only adapts the first of the five Ripley novels but it appears ripe for further exploration of its sinister protagonist in a world where viewers still just love to root for an unnerving outsider.

Move over Saltburn, the original homoerotic con artist is back in town and he will possess luxury at any cost.

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Ripley is out on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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