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Ripley (2024)–The One Who Got Away?

Based upon Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 classic, The Talented Mr. Ripley, this neo-noir remake reinterprets good and evil, survival and triumph, guilt and psychopathology. Tom Ripley is a young intelligent grifter residing in squalor in the 1960s, sharing a filthy bathroom with sewage backing up into the drain.  Feeling destined for the best that money can buy, Ripley is determined to set out to live that life, leaving his small-time operation as a con-man in Brooklyn.  We know little of his backstory except he was an orphan having been abandoned after the death of an astringent, hated aunt.  His low-class origins and his uncertain sexuality are knotted together in a tight weave of self-denial, narcissism, and fear of being discovered for who he is. 

Suddenly an unbelievably serendipitous opportunity presents itself in the form of a private investigator hired by a very wealthy industrialist to find his estranged son, Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn),  offering an all-expenses-paid trip to the fictional Italian town of Atrani along the Amalfi coast.  When Tom arrives, he charms the oppressively entitled layabout pretty boy  Dickie, but not his suspicious girlfriend, Amanda (Dakota Fanning.)

Ripley is unbelievably  fortunate, so much so that he literally gets away with the most heinous  of crimes.  His sinister presence, not seen by those he will betray, is a prevailing, disturbing   darkness of an unrepentant mind, duplicitous even to himself.   His only concern:  desperately attempting to deflect blame as a noose metaphorically tightens around his neck.   This is an  indelible profile of an anti-hero whose intensifying fear rages at his enemies.

Several cat-and-mouse games occur in rapid-fire sequences:  Freddy Miles, a friend of Dickie’s, visits Tom on behalf of Dickie’s well-being.  Amanda also is concerned about Dickie’s disappearance and  Inspector Ravini (Maurizio Lombardi) will not quit until he solves the multiple crimes committed, …or alleged to have been committed.  Let the sleuthing begin.

Given his chameleonic skills and menacing charisma, Ripley is a contented, if isolated swindler/con man, living  the posh life in Rome, Sicily, and then Venice.  Memories of his time with Dickie are jovial and sexually ambiguous.    Now, Dickie haunts him.  Or does he?  The usual character arc in which the character discovers how so much has changed–an emotional self-awareness–is absent here.

Much has been said by other critics about Andrew Scott’s unimpeachable performance. Scott drives home his character’s odiousness,  with a metronomic precision exuding Ripley’s chilling contempt and arrogance for all who feel they can ensnare him.  The supporting cast is crucial to the narrative:  each character has a heartbeat for the rhythm and unpredictable surprises throughout the drama. In the end, however, Ripley belongs to Andrew Scott, who somewhat incredibly evokes an understanding of his psychopathology, the dark rooms of his soul housing an undertow of pain.  And the black-and-white cinematography recreates traumatic events with cinematic detail worthy of an art exhibit at the Met.

Availability: Netflix

Note:  The black-and-white format of this movie has proved controversial.  Some viewers have dismissed the film as too “art-house”, if not gimmicky and pretentious.  Others claim the selection of black-and-white imagery  is nostalgic and conveys an historical era, reminiscent of Hitchock, who famously adapted Highsmith’s novel, “Strangers on a Train” (1951).   

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