Netflix Just Dropped One Of Its Most Gorgeous Series Ever

Netflix has won the streaming wars, but of course, that doesn't mean it's perfect. One of the popular dings against the streamer is that many of its original productions share a similar flattened, brightly lit aesthetic — a "Netflix look" that, fairly or not, can sometimes seem like an edict passed on to storytellers from the top down to make their shows and movies look a certain way. Naturally, this doesn't apply to every show, but if you watch enough of them, you'll start to see patterns emerge.

Thankfully, Steven Zaillian's "Ripley," a new take on Patricia Highsmith's famous con man story, is about as far from that typical "Netflix look" as you can get. Legendary cinematographer Robert Elswit ("There Will Be Blood," "Nightcrawler") imbues this show with a palpable style and personality, constantly playing with light and shadow and delivering spectacular results.

While Anthony Minghella's 1999 classic "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is full of beautiful sun-dappled colors, Zaillian and Elswit opt for a black and white look in "Ripley" that helps make this adaptation distinct. It trades the lush, intoxicating vibe of the movie for something more subtle, and provides a noir-tinged approach that is gorgeous in a totally different way. 

Ripley's black and white cinematography looks stunning

When I interviewed "Bob Marley: One Love" director Reinaldo Marcus Green, he told me about how Elswit (who also shot that film) would visit locations multiple times to make sure he has a full understanding of the best time of day to film a particular scene. "He just has a work ethic that's incredible," Green told me. "Every morning, he's up before I am, and he's going back to the location six, seven, eight times. Before sunset, after sunset, during sunset. Like, 'How many times do you have to see it, Robert?' 'We have to go again.' That's just who he is, and it shows you the old-school way of working."

That approach certainly paid off in "Ripley," which has a haunting look to it in large part thanks to the creative way Elswit chose to capture Tom Ripley as he cons his way across Italy. The visual storytelling is greatly enhanced by visual flourishes — not flashy oners or complicated camera moves that draw attention to themselves, but simply positioning the camera in unique places to convey different feelings about the show's protagonist and his journey. In a few shots, Ripley seems like a mastermind who has just pulled off his grand plan, but more often, he looks like a man who's way out of his depth. In a show that's extremely internal, Elswit's visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting — and the final effect catapults this into being among the very best-looking Netflix originals ever made.

We spoke all about "Ripley" on today's episode of the /News Daily podcast, which includes an interview with writer/producer/director Steven Zaillian about the series:

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