The Night Manager (War as spectator sport)


Rating: Severe

Year: 2016
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki

Spoiler alert in effect.

While I was looking for good quality TV shows to watch, I stumbled upon this BBC miniseries. It’s a real gem. It’s based on the novel by the same name, written by John le Carre. If his name doesn’t sound familiar to you, the films made based on his work might. They include The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and A Most Wanted Man. I’ve only watched two of these adaptations, and I can already tell that he has a particular style within the spy genre, different to the likes of say James Bond or Jason Bourne franchises. It’s less brute force and guns, less skimpy girls, less action but much more suspense, intellect and emotion behind it. Similar to my comment when reviewing Arrival, people who prefer to be bombarded with fighting sequences and action will be disappointed. And I’m not trying to detract from those kind of movies. On some days, I crave watching some impossible action sequences and indulging in the unrealistic-ness of it. But I feel le Carre’s stories are more on the emotional side, and often provides a scathing but necessary commentary on a particular current political/social issue of that time.

In the case of The Night Manager, it explores the commercialisation of guns and weapons of war (including napalm), and the Western world’s involvement in the Middle East unrest during the Arab Spring. It looks at greed, corruption and evilness, all of which unfortunately constitute the practices of some modern businesses, with innocent people used as pawns, or at worst, nothing more than collateral damage for the greater good (or evil rather). It does it through the eyes of Jonathan Pine, a night manager at a luxury hotel in Cairo. He becomes implicated with an illegal international arms trade deal when he meets Sophie Alekan, the mistress of a powerful and rich businessman in Egypt named Freddie Hamid. A British intelligence agency catches wind of this and promptly recruit him as a spy to be placed within the inner circle of the person right at the very top of the food chain, Richard Roper. Richard Roper is described as the ‘worst man in the world’, but when we meet him, you wouldn’t think of this. He’s a charming suave man, who seems confident and surrounded by close friends and admirers. Sure, we can see that he is extremely well off, and clearly is used to enjoying the finer things in life, but he seems just like any other businessman at first. As the episodes progress, we start to see the real Richard Roper, as Pine is accepted as his right hand man. He’s cold, ruthless, devoid of empathy and his way of thinking is perfectly summed up in this line: “Becoming a man is realising that it’s all rotten. Realising how to celebrate that rottenness, that’s freedom.” Nothing is out of the question so as long as it generates a return.

Richard Roper

In light of what’s happening in the world today, it’s a really chilling picture of what is going on behind our backs. Sometimes it’s just easier to forget that people like Richard Roper exist and live oblivious to all that’s happening. But this shows just how simple it is for an ordinary businessman to create war and how governments knowingly participate in such programs, if given the right incentives. Here, agents with high positions in MI6 are susceptible to corruption and in order to protect their client and their own reputation, they do increasingly reckless activities to cover themselves. They’ve dug their own holes. When I think about it, I guess it’s always been like that. People have always been greedy and those in powerful positions often succumb to deadly temptations. This show serves as a timely reminder of what really happens behind closed doors and the persuasion power of money, allowing viewers to be aware and educated about such practices.

The combination of great suspenseful storytelling and brilliant performances by the cast make for a thrilling and enjoyable watch. It’s one of those shows you just want to binge-watch, which is easy enough to do considering it only has six 1-hour episodes. Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman are definitely the standout performances, with strong supporting performances from Elizabeth Debicki and Tom Hollander. Tom Hiddleston plays Jonathan Pine’s likeableness and charm with ease, using his boyish smile and laugh and his chiselled body to win over the audiences’ affections. It also helps that he’s easy on the eyes. Hugh Laurie, known from his lead role in House, surprisingly plays “the worst man in the world” very well. He’s so versatile; charming one moment, explosive the next. But for me, Olivia Colman is my favourite to watch. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Angela Burr. She provides the perfect amount of comedic relief, and gives the show a strong, independent female character. Her timing and facial expressions are spot-on and helps the audience in understanding the cause of her deep-rooted hatred for Roper. All three are nominated for the Golden Globes, and so is the show, so fingers crossed they pick up a few trophies in January.

Overall, I would highly recommend this miniseries. It’s got the right combination of tension, suspense, romance, humour and action. Plus, you might learn a thing or two. And if nothing else convinces you to watch, then Tom Hiddleston’s abs performance should.

Other ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
IMDb: 8.2/10
Metacritic: 82/100

Discussion questions:
1. Do you think this is a faithful adaptation of Le Carre’s novel? Do you prefer the adaptations of his other novels better?
2. Do you think it’s worthy of being nominated for Golden Globes? Do you think it will win?


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