Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Night Manager: Spectacular Spy Games

Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, and Olivia Colman. With a cast like that, how could anyone doubt the final product would be anything less than glorious? Directed by Susanne Bier, The Night Manager, a six-part miniseries based on the novel by the always-thrilling John Le Carre, is a decadent televisual feast. Featuring a talented cast, a whip-smart script, and beguiling locations, this is a seductive and scorching thriller, filled with cliffhangers that keep you on the edge of your seat till the final scene.

Hiddleston stars as Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who served in Iraq but is now the eponymous night manager of a Cairo hotel during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. He stumbles across the details of a secret arms deal and sends word to UK Intelligence. That act results in a personal tragedy, so five years later, when intelligence officer, Angela Burr (Colman), asks Pine to go undercover in the inner circle of Richard "Dickie" Roper (Laurie), a wealthy industrialist who is responsible for these arms deals that are destabilizing the world, Pine sees this as his opportunity to serve his country and wreak his personal vengeance.

What follows is a tense and escalating game of cat and mouse where Pine is forced to gain Roper's trust by sacrificing many of his principles, and going in so deep that he may never find his way out again. In the meantime, Burr faces a series of political machinations with the UK and American Intelligence services and rapidly realizes that Roper has friends in high places who have been shielding him from the law all along. Everyone is in danger, no one knows who to trust, and a sense of kill or be killed permeates the proceedings, resulting in many deaths before the six episodes are done.

Hiddleston is unsurprisingly perfect as the noble Pine who has to be both suave and violent to win Roper's trust. Reminiscent of her powerhouse performance in Broadchurch, Colman is righteous and awe-inspiring as Angela Burr, a woman who is confidently conducting a high-stakes intelligence operation and toting a gun whilst sporting a very pregnant belly. And Hugh Laurie is a chilling revelation as the utterly evil Dickie Roper, a man with money, power, and no morals. In addition to the main trio of actors, Tom Hollander is magnificent as Roper's right-hand man, Lance "Corky" Corkoran, who harbors suspicions of Pine but doesn't have enough proof to prevent the man from worming his way into Roper's good graces. I could spend all day watching him deliver delicious lines like, "Chief, is it OK to baptize the princeling in the ways of the grape?" which is exactly the kind of dialogue one expects from the BBC. And Elizabeth Debicki is incredible as Jed Marshall, Roper's American girlfriend who tries to play dumb because she desperately needs his money, but starts to realize the stakes might not be worth it.

The Night Manager is sumptuously shot in beautiful locales, but it tackles ugly subject matter that packs a punch. It is a spy thriller that covers all the angles, from bureaucracy and duplicity at the highest levels to the brute violence and subtle tradecraft that are needed to keep an undercover agent alive in the field. It is scintillating stuff that exposes what happens when you allow corruption to take over the highest echelons of government and let money override morality. 

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