‘Ripley Review: Netflix Expertly Reinvents Its Source Material 


As the 2020s progress, it’s clear that escaping remakes and reboots is an impossible task. From film to television, each year sees more than a handful of original works being reinvented for a new generation, to varying degrees of success. At some point, we have to ask ourselves what works of art are not only deserving of a reinvention but need to be reinvented. 

When Ripley was announced all the way back in 2019, many fans of Patricia Highsmith’s novel and the subsequent Anthony Minghella film were cautious. Why would something as beloved as the film version need to be remade, and how would the original novel’s text be changed for the streaming generation? Thankfully, from the series’ first episode, it’s clear that this isn’t a direct remake, but instead a resurrection of Highsmith’s prose and characters. 

Like all its other versions, Ripley follows Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott), who is hired by a shipping tycoon to travel to Italy and convince his son, Richard “Dickie” Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn), to return to the United States. Acting as if he’s an old college friend, Tom quickly immerses himself into not only Dickie’s luxurious lifestyle, but Dickie as a person as well. But, as Tom’s obsession with his friend gets deeper, their relationship and lives quickly unravel into something more sinister.

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Despite people originally being skeptical about his casting, Andrew Scott gives one of the best performances of his career as Thomas Ripley. While it may not be as showy as his turn in All of Us Strangers, under the surface of his Ripley lies a magnetic and brooding disposition. It’s slight at times, but as the show moves along his smirks and exasperated sighs work perfectly and give Ripley a nuance that wasn’t necessarily present in the film version. 

Scott plays Ripley at times like a man possessed; he looks at Dickie in a way that’s all-consuming, as if he wants to cannibalize him so Dickie will be a part of him forever. By killing him and stealing his identity, Thomas is keeping an aspect of Dickie alive, immortalizing him through his own adventures and in turn transforming the man into Ripley himself. Through the killing, their identities become intertwined, suspending both of them in a perpetual limbo that will haunt their lives and legacies forever. 

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As the series unfolds, Tom’s resolve begins to crack, leaving in its wake a gaping hole to be filled with paranoia. We spend a lot of time with this version of the titular character, and it gives viewers a certain introspection that its film version didn’t grant to us. It’s interesting watching Ripley crack, while the paranoia is there it seems to harden him even more. His murderous desires are fleeting, but when they arise Scott shows it with a slight smirk and a crinkled eye, proving that despite the fear of being caught, Tom cannot help his true desires.

It’s a different portrayal than that of Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and one that in my opinion, makes this version all the more richer. We get to not only see a different side of the series’ titular character, but the people who surround him as well. Dakota Fanning breathes a staggering amount of life into Marge Sherwood, a character who in the novel and the film version feels devoid of both agency and a character arc. Here, her status as Dickie’s girlfriend is just as unstable as Tom’s friendship with him, making the two characters direct foils to one another. Fanning portrays her excellently, going toe-to-toe with Scott whenever they’re on screen together. It’s in their interactions that you’re forced to confront the idea that Tom may finally be outmatched. 

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In this adaptation, it’s not just Tom who is hiding within themselves. It’s Marge, Dickie, and even the scene-stealing Freddie Miles who weaves through various scenes like a predator stalking its prey. Everyone in Ripley purposely feels like caricatures of the roles they’re trying to portray in society, which causes Tom to appear out of his depth. He appears ostracized within the world he’s involved himself in, and at times it’s impossible not to feel some sort of empathy for him. He’s in over his head, despite putting himself in this position. It becomes increasingly clear as the series unravels that while it may not happen immediately, Tom cannot go on living his life like this. 

As the show reaches its final episodes and Tom’s life enters its most unstable stage, Scott’s performance heightens until it crescendos into one of the best of the year. It makes for a riveting watch, one whose tempo increases as it becomes a game of cat-and-mouse filled with deceit. From its staggering cinematography to its wistful score, it’s clear that every person working on this show aimed to not only make a faithful adaptation but one that could rival its original material. While Ripley may not have been a needed remake, the miniseries does an excellent job of laying all the intricacies of Highsmith’s novel bare.



Featuring incredible cinematography, a wistful score, and a career-defining performance from Andrew Scott, ‘Ripley’ is a triumph that rivals its source material.



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