For years, I’d see a review in the newspaper or a find a book-seller prominently displaying something hot off the press, and said to myself, ah, a new book from John LeCarré. I pronounced his name like this – Lee Car. Only recently, in the promos on TV for The Night Manager, the new mini-series on AMC, did I hear this name pronounced as Leh Car Ray. So I learned something.
As this mini-series, The Night Manager, concluded last night (just six 90 minute long episodes – actually 60 minutes of content and 30 minutes of commercials) I came to the conclusion that I had watched a very fine series.
We open with a quick glimpse of Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) a super successful businessman with side ventures into philanthropy (refugee aid). As he states to a breathless audience at a seminar – What good is my success if I don’t share it [with those who need it].
We then cut to Cairo, Egypt. The streets are filled with protesters. The date is January 11th , 2011. The Egyptian Revolution would begin in two weeks on January 25th. Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is the Night Manager at the swanky Nefertiti Hotel. This is a bit of stage management as the actual Nefertiti Hotel is in Luxor, in the shadows of the pyramids, a bit south of Cairo, just a quick six hours and change drive actually. And where they filmed the scenes in this hotel were really shot a resort in Marrakesh, Morocco. But that’s okay, it is actually a fairly routine happenstance in television production.
One look at Hiddleston’s Pine, and you’ll be saying something along the lines of – How could this guy NOT be in the movies. Yes, he’s that good-looking. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a successor to Daniel Craig as James Bond – at some point down the road, after he adds some more muscle. He doesn’t convey toughness, or have a brawny masculinity. Rather it is his stillness and composure that conceals the steeliness inside him.
Anyway, the mistress of Freddie Hamid, a Cairo playboy, who is a rich guy who dabbles in the arms market, takes a liking to Pine, and gives him a shipping manifest. We’ve no idea why – but what ever the reason, she deemed it necessary to have a copy of this document in someone’s hands. Pine forwards this to a pal at MI-6, still housed in River House in London. Don’t believe those stories that it was blown to smithereens in a Bond film.
It comes to the attention of one Angela Burr (played by Olivia Colman who was terrific in two seasons of Broadchurch). She’s the leader of a very secret wing within MI-6. And, you guessed it – she’s been trying to get the goods on Richard Roper for the better part of a decade. Of course without success.
Roper, when he’s not spending lavish amounts of money living the high life, is a major player in the arms trade. Burr is kind of a rogue. She needs Pine inside Roper’s gang, but she can’t tell the higher-ups in MI-6 because – well… this is LeCarré, so no one can be trusted.
When Hamid’s mistress turns up murdered in the Nefertiti, Pine decides to make a new life for himself. Some years pass and we find Pine. This time at an elegant Swiss Hotel in Zermatt. Pine works as the Night Manager at this hotel too, and lives a quiet life in a cottage with views of the Matterhorn.
You do know what comes next don’t you. Right. Roper and his entourage arrive by helicopter at the very hotel where Pine is working. Roper’s entourage includes his girl friend Jed Marshall (Elizabeth Debicki),
his Chief of Security – one Major Lance Corkoran (Tom Hollander above), and a shooter called Frisky (Michael Nardone). plus additional muscle.
So Burr spins her story and gets Pine to sign on to go undercover and to infiltrate Roper’s gang. It won’t be easy. Pine will have to become a felon, by pilfering cash from the hotel’s safe, and he will next find himself on the lam in Devon in the UK. Where he will become the local tough guy. I think it is called dossier building, or maybe he is working towards creating a new back-story for himself. After all, one simply can’t approach a Roper, and ask for and receive a job. It’s just not that simple.
And we’re off.
That’s the set-up. Pine will become the felon known as Thomas Quince while in the UK. There will need to be a way that he and Roper cross path’s again. But no worries. They will.
We do quite a bit of globe-trotting in this series. From Zermatt to Madrid. From Cairo to London. From Mallorca to Marrakesh. With additional stops in Istanbul, the Turkish countryside, and some elegant restaurant and bars in the Balearics off the coast of Spain.
The elements of the story are espionage, sex, duplicity, and betrayal. The story itself is Le Carre but it is a cut above what you know and expect. You’ll likely have to suspend disbelief on more than a few occasions. If not every woman on the planet, then certainly every woman in this mini-series will have a yen for Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine, Thomas Quince, and then ultimately, Andrew Birch. Dickie Roper will anoint him as the new straw man, said another way, he will now be known as Andrew Birch (sticking with the tree connection of course).
As the straw man, Birch will be the front man for Roper’s upcoming arms deals. He’s the new face of Tradepass – one of Roper corporations that can’t be traced back to Roper. If the deals go south, it will be Hiddleston as Birch whose signature is on the paperwork, and Hiddleston as Birch whose retina scan will be in the bank records.
The story is beautifully shot and we see quite a bit of what we might call luxury resorts, especially in Mallorca. Hiddleston’s character is a bit closed off to begin with, but that will wear off. On the other hand, Hugh Laurie’s Roper is a delicious villain – you know, all charm and all menace, like the villain you’d expect and hope for.
Except he has a certain blind spot about Pine/Quince/Birch. All of us watching, must say to ourselves – thinking in Roper’s place, how did that Hotel Night Manager just happen to be a chef in the very same Mallorca restaurant that Roper visited. Corky thought it was a puzzle to be investigated.
Despite his steely resolve, and his chameleon-like skills in presenting only what needed to be presented, Pine/Birch should have been sussed out. Colman as Angela Burr, portrayed a twice married woman – once to her husband and concurrently to her job.
As the story progress, she’s pregnant, then very pregnant. And the proverbial ice beneath her feet seems to grow thinner with each episode.
Did I mention that David Harewood, who once upon a time was a major component in the Showtime series, Homeland, is on hand as a likely CIA agent who is working with Angela Burr. That’s him with Pine/Birch in the Cairo hotel.
While far from perfect, this series is both entertaining and suspenseful, a thriller that works, and above all, this series will not cater to anyone with a ton of blood-lust. The two leads, Hiddleston and Laurie earn kudos for their work. Not so much for Hollander as Corky, and ditto for Debicki as Jen. Hollander was a bit too one-note as the boss’s pit-bull, and Debicki was simply too tall and light weight to be Roper’s toy.
She did however get off the best line in the whole series:
I don’t care who sees me naked, but I do care about who sees me cry…
I’ll recommend the series. You should be able to see it On-Demand via your cable company, or via amc.com
The trailer follows: