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Netflix’s “Ripley” is a Spectacular Take on a Classic Story

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

It’s natural to compare versions of any source material that’s been adapted multiple times. Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley is no exception. Three notable adaptations have emerged from the psychological thriller: 1961’s Purple Noon, 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and most recently, Netflix’s miniseries adaptation, aptly titled Ripley.

For better or for worse, I had not seen either film adaptation of Highsmith’s book when I first pressed play on Netflix’s new series. I went into Ripley entirely unaware of what to expect from the plot, though I’d read criticisms of the series online. Is leading man Andrew Scott too old to portray the character Tom Ripley? Is a miniseries too long a concept for a relatively short novel? Is another version of a twice-adapted story even necessary? To the last question, I can say that another version is absolutely needed. At least, it’s sufficiently compelling to justify its existence.

Ripley tells the story of Tom Ripley, a low-level conman in New York City who is approached by a wealthy shipbuilder who mistakes him for a friend of his beloved son, Dickie. The shipbuilder asks Ripley to travel to Atrani, Italy, to persuade Dickie to return to the United States after years abroad. When Ripley arrives in Atrani, he becomes enamored with Dickie and his luxurious lifestyle, which he also gets to indulge in—an obsession that eventually descends into deceit and murder.

There’s a lot to love about Ripley. Right off the bat, it distinguishes itself from its predecessors by filming entirely in black and white. The Talented Mr. Ripley from 1999 features a lush and vibrant palette, capturing every color of the Amalfi Coast, while Ripley sets itself apart by stripping that away. What I love about Ripley is how it embraces its neo-noir palette—lingering shots of reflections in puddles and shadows that highlight faces are abundant. Considering the plot takes place in the 1950s, we feel entirely immersed in the period through the monochrome. Ripley’s dark palette provides a very different energy compared to its previous adaptations, focusing intensely on its titular character rather than the sun-soaked Italian coast. It’s different, but it works wonderfully.

Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley is a truly inspired performance. I first became familiar with Scott’s work from Fleabag, where he portrayed the aptly named “hot priest,” and even then, I was enamored with his expressiveness and warmth. Ripley could not be a more different character than the Priest, but Scott’s performance is no less extraordinary. Tom Ripley is a conman and murderer, yet Scott plays him with so much nuance that he feels grounded even while committing horrific crimes. It’s impossible to hate Ripley fully, for Scott portrays him as entirely human and restrained.

Though Scott leads Ripley masterfully, it’s certainly no one-man show. I found myself particularly impressed with Dakota Fanning’s Marge, Dickie’s girlfriend, who is suspicious of Tom from the outset. Tom purposely takes steps to begin pushing Marge out of Dickie’s life, always attempting to drive a wedge between them, but Marge holds her own against him. Previous iterations of Marge have shown her as more welcoming to the intruder in her life, but Ripley instead presents her as an immediate foil to the main character. Johnny Flynn plays Dickie, floating through life in Italy on his parents’ dime—spoiled but still likable, immediately telling Tom he can stay in his home and allowing him to travel along with the couple.

I knew almost nothing about the novel’s plot when I first chose to watch, except that the main character is a con man and that murder eventually occurs. With that being said, Ripley exceeded my expectations. Without revealing too much, I’ll note that the series handles its dark content masterfully. Every murder is a spectacle—my favorite scene features Tom trying to sneak a body out of his apartment without being detected. The show’s deliberate pacing enhances this, as scenes and plot developments unfold slowly, making it feel natural to linger in the aftermath of a murder. It’s nail-bitingly intense and anxiety-inducing—perfectly fitting for its content.

Upon hearing about a new Ripley adaptation, I couldn’t help but wonder why another retelling of a story already told twice was necessary. However, Netflix truly blew me away with this series. I was hooked from the first episode and can’t recommend it enough. Scott delivers a wildly impressive performance (I’ll singlehandedly campaign for his Emmy if I have to)! I’m beyond excited to watch Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley to see how they compare, though I’m confident Ripley will reign supreme as my favorite adaptation.

Sienna is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. When it comes to writing, she likes to tackle topics like movies, television, music, celebrities, and any other pop culture goings-on. Sienna is a biological sciences and sociology double major at Pitt with a goal of attaining a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. In addition to being a writer at Her Campus, Sienna is in the Frederick Honors College and is a member of Women in Healthcare, Pitt Democrats, and Bookmarked. After her undergraduate education, Sienna hopes to go to medical school and become a cardiothoracic surgeon. When she's not reading or studying, Sienna loves crossing films off her watchlist, reading new books, and trying a latte from every coffee shop in Oakland.