Andrew Scott is frightening and fascinating

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Marge doesn’t like Ripley much, either, but the nature of her suspicion isn’t initially clear.
In Highsmith’s novel, the reader has access to Ripley’s thoughts and feelings, at least to the extent that Ripley understands them himself.
“I come from money, so am I a fraud?” Dickie asks Ripley with uncharacteristic vulnerability.
Dickie makes the catastrophic decision to tell Ripley this while the two men are on a motorboat in the Mediterranean.
From the moment Ripley clubs Dickie with that oar, his romance with objects also becomes a kind of war.
Highsmith’s Ripley is just that.
In his defense, Highsmith’s Ripley would argue that he merits the things he takes from others more than they do, a morally bankrupt position, but he does have a point.
Ripley has nothing but contempt for them and most other rich people, a contempt that is easy to share.

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There are spoilers for Ripley in this post.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, a thriller set in Rome, a Venetian palazzo, and the aesthetically stunning Amalfi Coast, is one of Patricia Highsmith’s best-loved novels from 1955. The plots of both the 1960 René Clément film Purple Noon, which starred Alain Delon, and the 1999 Anthony Minghella film The Talented Mr. Ripley, which starred Matt Damon and Jude Law, have served as a platform for attractive young actors who are tanned and occasionally shirtless in provocative situations. A talent for manipulation and impersonation can take you far in life, as demonstrated by the exploits of Tom Ripley, a small-time con man who kills people and then poses as wealthy wastrel Dickie Greenleaf. This is a lesson that any actor would be wise to learn.

Originally created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) for Showtime, the most recent adaptation may appear unnecessary at first, especially considering its languid eight-episode runtime, but Zaillian offers a startlingly fresh perspective. Ripley is a black and white film with cinematic shots that are as well-defined as those taken by Ansel Adams. Andrew Scott, the star of Zaillian, is not your typical golden boy. When Scott’s Ripley is around an old-world masterpiece, such as the Grand Canal in Venice, Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saint Matthew, or a really, really nice hotel, he lets ecstasy wash over his pale face. Otherwise, Ripley is a cipher, his eyes like glassy black marbles, and his manner blandly pleasant. Although the series is set in the early 1960s, the decision to film Ripley in black and white initially seems to be a nod to Italian neorealism. However, it soon becomes apparent that this incarnation of Ripley is neither a sun-washed thriller nor a gritty social commentary thanks to the frequent cuts to shots of antique statues and carvings and the chiaroscuro shadows that envelop Ripley’s movements. This Ripley has a gothic vibe.

In this role, Scott’s perpetually hidden menace, which was exploited to campy effect when he played Moriarty in Sherlock, briefly peeks out. You find yourself rooting for him despite the fact that he is scary. In order to pull off two-bit scams, such as stealing mail from doctor’s offices and pretending to be a collection agent on the payphone in his filthy boardinghouse hallway, the show starts by laying out Ripley’s run-down life in New York. In Zaillian’s series, the material world is a character unto itself. Every worn-out shower head, portable typewriter, and rickety bus gearshift is depicted with the same vividness as an actual person. Later in the series, when Ripley successfully assumes Dickie’s persona, he ritualistically places four elegant items that he has taken from his victim out of every hotel room or apartment he stays in: a camera, a cologne bottle, a cigarette case, and a travel alarm clock. In Ripley’s universe, things are the center.

When Dickie’s wealthy father (Kenneth Lonergan) hires Ripley to go to the Italian village where Dickie (Johnny Flynn) has rented a villa and convince him to return to the States, Ripley, mistakenly thinking that Ripley is a good friend of his son, gets his chance at the good stuff in New York. When he does, Dickie’s opulent, laid-back lifestyle catches Ripley’s attention right away. However, he is less enamored of Dickie’s awful paintings, which Dickie uses as an excuse to stay in Italy, and the other man’s sort-of girlfriend, Marge (Dakota Fanning). Although her suspicion of Ripley isn’t immediately apparent, Marge doesn’t think highly of her either. In a cunning move that positions him as Dickie’s ally against his obnoxious parents, Ripley disarms Dickie by revealing right away that he was sent by Dickie’s father. To Marge’s chagrin, Dickie extends an invitation to Ripley to move into the villa with him.

At least to the extent that Ripley is able to understand them, the reader of Highsmith’s book can experience the thoughts and emotions of Ripley. Like Dickie, his sexual orientation is still unclear. Marge fears Dickie is “a queer,” which is essentially the basis of her suspicion. Actually, Dickie is more unsure than Ripley under his affluent persona of ease. In a moment of uncharacteristic (and possibly possessive?) ferocity in the series, Ripley calls out Dickie’s friend, played by nonbinary actor Eliot Sumner, calling him “such a fraud,” a wealthy dabbler who is only pretending to be a playwright. Dickie asks Ripley, displaying an unusual amount of vulnerability, “I come from money, so am I a fraud?”. He doesn’t throw Ripley out even after Dickie finds him in his room acting out a scene in which he rejects Marge in Dickie’s voice, all while wearing Dickie’s clothes—including, in a thoughtful touch added by Zaillian, his underwear. Does Dickie feel validated by the fact that someone else aspires to be him, or is it because he has a hidden crush on Ripley?

We’ll never be aware of it. Dickie is convinced by Marge to give up on Ripley and embrace being a couple. When the two men are in the Mediterranean on a motorboat, Dickie makes the disastrous decision to tell Ripley this. As soon as possible, Ripley sinks the boat and leaves town, dressing as Dickie and using his forgery abilities to access Dickie’s trust fund. He also promptly bashes his head in with an oar and ties his body to the anchor and drops it overboard. He writes Marge a note stating that he (Dickie) needs some time apart and rents a gorgeous apartment in Rome that is furnished with antiques.

Ripley turns his love affair with objects into a sort of warfare the moment he clubs Dickie with that oar. Ripley is a refreshing departure from the stereotype of a cunning criminal who knows exactly how to manage and hide his crimes. The show is dedicated to capturing the intense physical strain of getting rid of a dead body and a bloody boat. It becomes even harder to cover up and clean up the mess after Ripley has to kill again in order to hide the first one. With a little bit of luck, Ripley manages to manipulate people rather effectively, despite the suspicion he occasionally aroused. The series lingers over the steps Ripley must take to assume Dickie’s identity and fortune and to elude a persistent but not especially smart police detective. Things are more stubborn, and what is a corpse if not an inconvenient person transformed into an even more inconvenient thing? For sociopaths, it turns into a routine.

That is precisely what Highsmith’s Ripley is. He takes Dickie’s life because he feels he deserves it more. In Highsmith’s account, he takes a train from the scene of Dickie’s murder, relishes his first-class accommodations, and experiences “an ecstatic moment when he thought of all the pleasures that lay before him now with Dickie’s money, other beds, tables, seas, ships, suitcases, shirts, years of freedom, pleasure.”. He falls asleep feeling as confident, joyful, and content as he has never been in his life. Zaillian’s Ripley is considerably less observant. During that same train ride, the camera pans in on Scott’s face for almost a minute, allowing the audience to speculate about his emotions. Was it relief that he was on his way out, horror that he had killed a friend or a man he might have loved, hope for the new life that lay ahead of him, or just a maddeningly meticulous checklist of everything he needed to do to hide his crime?

We still want him to escape punishment for it. In addition to being a murderer, Ripley is a hero for conquering great challenges in order to achieve his goals. In spite of his transgressions, his struggles to ascend—long stairways are a recurrent image in the series—make him likable. Although it is a morally reprehensible stance, Highsmith’s Ripley would defend himself by saying that he deserves what he takes from others more than they do. Marge, who appears to truly care about Dickie, ultimately uses her association with his disappearance to her advantage by having her photos published in magazines and mingling with the Venetian socialites who have adopted Ripley as a fascinating curiosity. For them and most other wealthy people, Ripley harbors nothing but disdain, and this disdain is contagious.

Since taste is essentially a heightened appreciation of things, Zaillian echoes Highsmith’s suggestion that Ripley’s taste elevates him above his victims, raising the question of how talented Ripley actually is. In the series, Ripley responds to Caravaggio’s paintings with a reverence that borders on the spiritual, furthering this idea. The show jumps to the painter’s life in the last episodes; he was also a murderer, a scoundrel, and probably a lover of men and boys. However, Caravaggio was also a magnificent artist, far more gifted than Ripley. We might believe that Caravaggio’s art atones for his transgressions, and that may not be all that dissimilar from how we might want Ripley to succeed despite the fact that he is a monster due to the immensely entertaining spectacle of his cunning.

Or perhaps Ripley just tells himself that he is a superior being to whom the laws of nature do not apply. It’s important to note that there’s something that wealthy people also frequently think. Zaillian intensifies these unsettling questions by reducing the glitz in his captivating adaptation. More so than Highsmith’s, his Ripley is the darkest yet—deeper and lonelier than before.

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