10-16 June 2016 #812

The Night Manager

With the television adaptation, you have not only that intriguing aspect, but also the chance to unravel several other fascinating characters.
Sophia Pande

The Night Manager, the new six-part BBC1 adaptation of John le Carré’s novel from 1993 by the same name, is as good as it gets, with an unusually high production value, stunning settings across the globe, a dream cast, and a tightly wound story, dealing with the ugly business of illegally selling arms, that has been adapted to be wholly relevant to current-day politics.

The plot begins simply enough in Cairo with the introduction of the enigmatic, handsome Jonathan Pine (played by Tom Hiddleston), a night manager at the swanky Nefertiti Hotel. Things are set in motion when Jonathan becomes inadvertently involved with the ill-used, courageous Sophie Alekan (Aure Atika), mistress of Freddie Hamid (David Avery), scion of one of the most powerful, corrupt families in Cairo and very much in cahoots with Richard Roper (played brilliantly by the great Hugh Laurie), a ruthless, but charming and sophisticated villain who is involved in selling illegal arms across the troubled region.

Sophie, knowing that her days as Freddie’s mistress are numbered (she fears death, not replacement), asks Jonathan to hold some documents for her and release them to the authorities if she were to disappear.

When Jonathan discovers that the papers are inventories of smuggled arms he hands them over, sealing Sophie’s fate, and ensuring that his own carefully (self-) preserved equilibrium is upset — albeit in ways he never imagined.

Jonathan and Richard meet again, a few years later, at another uber-luxe hotel in the Swiss Alps. Richard is up to his usual wheeler-dealer antics and is accompanied by his beautiful girlfriend Jed (the gorgeous Elizabeth Debicki).

Jonathan finds himself in a quandary: will he accept the offer made to him by Angela Burr (the wonderful Olivia Coleman), a dogged British agent who has been after Richard for years, or continue as a secretive British war veteran who chooses to read quietly in his room when he is not on duty behind the reception desk?

I suspect, at least from the novel’s title, that The Night Manager was meant to be a character study. With the television adaptation, you have not only that intriguing aspect, but also the chance to unravel several other fascinating characters including, possibly most interestingly, that of Jed’s, an unusually complex woman who is much more than the beautiful, self-indulgent creature one first meets in Episode Two.

Le Carré is notoriously persnickety about handing his books over to be adapted; the fact that he appears in a few-seconds-long cameo in this version is clearly a tip of his hat to the unflinching quality of this excellent, riveting piece of long-form television, helmed by the very talented Danish director Susanne Bier.

Watch Trailer: