‘Ripley’ Review — Andrew Scott Dazzles in Netflix’s Gorgeous Noir Thriller


The Big Picture

  • Netflix’s Ripley boasts stunning cinematography inspired by classic cinema and Renaissance art.
  • Andrew Scott gives one of his best performances ever.
  • The series offers an expertly crafted narrative with a strong sense of suspense, although some plot threads are left unresolved.

Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley is the consummate literary antihero — a liar, thief, and murderer who cons his way through life, always just one step ahead of the consequences of his actions. Highsmith’s “Ripliad” novels have been adapted numerous times over the years, with talented actors like Matt Damon (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and John Malkovich (Ripley’s Game) playing the titular character. Acclaimed Irish actor Andrew Scott now joins that list with Netflix’s eight-episode limited series Ripley, created by Academy Award winner Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Set in the 1960s and shown in gorgeous black-and-white, Ripley follows Tom Ripley, a grifter from New York who is hired to go to Italy and convince Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn), the prodigal heir of a Manhattan dynasty, to return home to the States. What follows is a murderous journey of deceit and fraud as Tom ruthlessly climbs his way up to the life he wants, no matter the cost.


A grifter named Ripley living in New York during the 1960s is hired by a wealthy man to begin a complex life of deceit, fraud and murder.

Main Genre


Andrew Scott Leads ‘Ripley’s Stellar Cast with a Career-Best Performance

For many viewers, the biggest draw of the series is its star — and that’s perfectly apropos here, because Andrew Scott delivers what may just be a career-best performance in Ripley. Embodying the role of a complex killer, Scott shows nuance and realism in his acting, grounding the character even in his most despicable acts. It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between Scott’s Ripley and his Moriarty from the BBC Sherlock series. Both performances carry an air of menace, but while Scott’s Moriarty is more of an overt psychopath, his Ripley is restrained, understated, and exceptionally human.

The rest of Ripley’s ensemble are no slouches either, and none of the characters they play are outright good or bad. While Flynn’s Dickie may seem like Tom’s obvious opposite, Dakota Fanning’s Marge Sherwood, Dickie’s girlfriend, is Ripley’s true foil. Fanning skillfully plays her character, saying one thing while communicating something else through her body language. Marge and Tom have the opposite of chemistry in that every scene of the two interacting feels hostile and uncomfortable while still being completely gripping. There’s the heavy implication that Tom is queer, and Marge is just as homophobic as the average person of her time might be expected to be. Tom is a man who makes his living by fooling people, and Marge is a woman who will not be taken for a fool. When they collide, you just can’t look away.

Freddy Miles (Eliot Sumner), a friend of Dickie’s, is another scintillating watch. Their performance makes Freddy appear righteous, highly intelligent, and thoroughly unlikable (in a good way). By contrast, Flynn’s performance as Dickie is equally layered, even though the character himself comes off as agreeable but a little bland. Maurizio Lombardi deserves praise as well for his performance as Inspector Ravini, a character who appears a little later in the series but plays a pivotal role as the cat to Tom’s mouse. Lombardi’s Ravini is authoritative, skillful, and stern, but with his own dry sense of humor.

‘Ripley’s Cinematography Takes Its Cues From Renaissance Art

As amazing as Ripley’s cast is, what truly elevates the show is the work of Academy Award-winner Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), the series’ director of photography. As mentioned, the series is shown in black and white, which adds a classic feel to the production. However, unlike many films and shows that have done the same, Ripley uses its monochromatic visual palette to create a sense of beauty that color simply could not capture. It doesn’t just look artistic, it actually is. Every shot in Ripley is perfectly composed, worthy of being showcased in a gallery as high art. For that matter, high art is the inspiration for the cinematography and for the plot itself.

The work of Caravaggio, the Renaissance-era Italian painter who inspired the Baroque movement, is a recurring motif in the show’s plot. Appropriately, Caravaggio also informs the series’ visual style. The painter was known for his use of light and shadow, which the show emulates with high-contrast shots of long shadows broken with beams of light. Stairs are another recurring motif, used symbolically to represent Tom’s rise and fall and as an aesthetic device, drawing the viewer’s eyes upwards from darkness to light. It’s almost poetic, a real feather in the caps of both Elswit and showrunner/director Steven Zaillian.

‘Ripley’ Feels Like a Blend of Hitchcock and Fellini with Just a Hint of Giallo

Image via Netflix

Zaillian, who wrote and directed all eight episodes of Ripley, is best known for his screenwriting work, having written acclaimed films like Schindler’s List and The Irishman. Ripley, however, is a masterful showcase of what he can do in the director’s chair. Zaillian has a keen eye for editing that comes across in the seamless composition of the show’s sequences. The legendary Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita was reportedly a stylistic influence on Ripley, which can be seen in the way the series depicts beautiful, sometimes even dreamy landscapes. In fact, somewhat surprisingly for a noir thriller, Ripley starts with quite a lot of bright shining vistas, a sharp contrast with the darkness that sets in in its latter half. The series also takes stylistic inspiration from Italian Giallo thrillers, a genre noted for its aesthetic brilliance. This influence is most apparent in the show’s opening scene, which looks like it could have been taken directly from a 1960s Giallo film.

While Gialli and Fellini are the clear inspirations for the show’s visual style, Ripley’s suspenseful narrative is reminiscent of another legendary director: Alfred Hitchcock. Ripley can’t rightly be called Hitchcockian, but the plot, pacing, and direction are comparable to the great auteur’s work, with tightly written scenes thick with tension. Psycho, in particular, comes to mind. The similarity is especially strong in Ripley’s murder scenes. There’s a quote that’s often ascribed to Hitchcock: “In films, murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man.” The same thing can be said about Ripley. Zaillian shows just how hard it is to actually kill someone and get away with it — not just psychologically, but also in a very practical sense.

‘Ripley’ Deserves To Be on Your Watch List

With its ensemble cast, stellar cinematography, and adept direction, Ripley is a near-perfect series. In terms of faithfulness to its source material, the show scores higher than most adaptations, changing very little from what Highsmith created. Ripley also has an underlying queer narrative that is kept intentionally vague. Both Dickie and Marge are shown to be homophobic, and Tom’s sexuality is often brought under scrutiny. However, it’s never explicitly confirmed in the story whether Tom is queer or if his obsession with Dickie stems from some other aspect. Canonically, Tom Ripley is a gay man, but the way Ripley approaches the question of his sexuality says nothing about the character himself and everything about society’s stance towards homosexuality at that time.

The series is not without flaws, however. As well-crafted as it is, Ripley’s plot does have one or two loose threads that are left unresolved. When the credits roll, there’s still a lot we don’t know about Tom and his past, made particularly frustrating by the fact that you can’t really trust anything the character says in the show. But those things are easily forgivable, as Ripley’s gorgeous visuals and immaculate acting make those flaws seem irrelevant. This isn’t just one of the best Highsmith adaptations ever; Ripley is easily one of the best shows Netflix has ever done. Watch it on the biggest screen you can and in the highest quality possible, because you don’t want to miss a single detail of this magnificent show.

Ripley 2024 TV Show Promo Image


Andrew Scott leads the impressive ensemble cast of Netflix’s Ripley, one of the best shows on the streamer to date.


  • The series boasts stunning cinematography inspired by classic cinema and Renaissance art.
  • Andrew Scott gives what may be his career-best performance in Ripley.
  • The show’s expertly crafted narrative creates a strong sense of suspense throughout.

  • Some plot threads are never fully given a resolution.

Ripley premieres on Netflix on April 4.

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