Creator(s): Susanne Bier, John le Carré, David Farr
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman
Written by Fiona Underhill
‘The Night Manager’ is one of the glossiest, most glamorous and gargantuan-budgeted TV dramas the Beeb has ever produced and has recently been launched with a fanfare on AMC in the US. It is the perfect British export – leading British acting talent, exotic locations and an examination of how upper-class British education, money and power corrupts.
Based on the novel by John le Carre (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), it is the story of the worst man in the world – arms dealer Richard ‘Dicky’ Roper (Hugh Laurie), the fringe intelligence officer Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) who has dedicated her career to bringing him to justice and the eponymous hotel “Night Manager” Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) who she drafts in to aid her.
Several major changes have been made successfully from the source material – it has been updated from its early 90’s setting to the Arab Spring of 2011, which also makes best use of the adaptation’s locations – Cairo, Turkey and Tunisia (a change from the Caribbean in the novel). Colman’s character was created specifically for her – a change from Leonard Burr in the book – to a heavily pregnant woman, which really works, especially in the exciting denouement. Roper’s girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) has also changed substantially from the book – from a silly, British upper-class convent school girl to a New York model with a child she is hiding from Roper. This addition definitely makes the character more sympathetic and Pine’s attraction to her makes more sense in the TV series.
Something else writer David Farr and director Susanne Bier have done with the TV adaptation is substantially upped the Bond factor – the title sequence alone has every Bond trope possible thrown into it and they even have Pine ordering a vodka martini at one stage. Hiddleston has been groomed within an inch of his life into a Bond-esque antihero – sharp suited, prone to suddenly becoming topless and turning to violence at the drop of a hat. Pine is much more aggressive in the series (he does not murder anyone in the book), which shows the influence of Bourne as well as Bond. Hiddleston is playing “the observer” character again (like in his recent film High-Rise) – he is an enigma, being torn in two directions between avenging angel Burr and the corrupting influence of Roper.
Episode Four is by far the strongest of the series. Roper’s close aide and advisor Major ‘Corky’ Corkaran (played with aplomb by Tom Hollander) is being pushed aside in favour of the new young buck (Pine), leading to a fabulous meltdown in a restaurant over a lobster salad – the absolute highlight of the series for me. This episode also includes the much-hyped sex scene and a bravura turn from Colman – delivering a monologue on Burr’s motivations for doggedly pursuing Roper, dating back to a devastating School Sports Day.
‘The Night Manager’ is totally over-the-top and melodramatic – laughably so at times – but hugely enjoyable and entertaining; so much so that I really looked forward to it each week. Laurie’s portrayal of Roper would not be out-of-place in a ‘Bit of Fry and Laurie’ sketch. However, it makes for perfect Sunday night viewing, as a sumptuous bit of fluff to envelope yourself in.