Ripley review: Andrew Scott shines as the inscrutable anti-hero in this gripping psychological drama

Television: Netflix’s eight-part adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel is an excellent platform for the Irish actor

It’s proving a busy year for Irish actors born in 1976. Cillian Murphy has bagged that Oscar for Oppenheimer. Colin Farrell will shortly make his streaming debut in thriller Sugar. But before he does, Andrew Scott is also returning to television, playing Patricia Highsmith’s inscrutable anti-hero Tom Ripley in Ripley (Netflix from Thursday), a new eight-part adaptation of Highsmith’s 1955 novel from Schindler’s List/Moneyball writer Steven Zaillian.

Ripley is the perfect vehicle for the actor still best known for providing a comedic foil to Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the “hot priest”, so called, in Fleabag. His Ripley is a much chillier proposition than his fuzzy Fleabag cleric – a sociopath who will do anything to get ahead, especially if a free holiday to Italy is involved.

That is the offer presented to the down-on-his-luck scamcaster at the start of Ripley, a moody black-and-white affair that possesses the mournful beauty of mid-20th-century still photography. Lacking colour, it is up to Scott to bring the sparkle. He does so with aplomb as wrong ‘un Tom – a dead soul hiding behind a twitchy exterior.

Ripley goes to Italy at the behest of megabucks industrialist Herbert Greenleaf. His mission is simple – track down Herbert’s wastrel son Dickie (Johnny Flynn) and rescue him from his life of gilded indolence.


Few characters in popular fiction named Dickie have ever amounted to anything, and so it proves with Master Greenleaf. It’s the mid-1950s, and he’s high on the hog on the Amalfi Coast with his girlfriend, Marge (Dakota Fanning), a would-be novelist who lacks talent yet has a nose for a huckster.

Her nostrils twitch the moment Ripely wanders into their lives, claiming to have known Dickie from back in New York. Dickie does not recollect their ever meeting. Still, the sun is out, the view impeccable. Why not invite Tom to pull up a stool and sip a cocktail?

Dickie insists early on to Tom that he isn’t gay – but the chemistry between the characters is undeniable and gives the action a charge of forbidden love. This leaves Marge on the outside and resentful – until Tom turns his clammy charms on her, too.

The Talented Mr Ripley is a thriller where we already know who did it: it opens in flashforward with Tom dragging a body down a stairs.

But as with Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation – starring the glammy power trio of Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow – the fun of his absorbing take on Highsmith is watching Ripley slowly draw Dickie into his web. It’s a gripping psychological drama – and an excellent platform for the spellbindingly repulsive Scott.