Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Night Manager, Espionage Du Jour

photo from BBC

Allow me please to take a moment to write about “The Night Manager.” That John Le Carré espionage novel turned into a BBC TV series starring Tom Hiddleston (Loki in Thor) and Hugh Laurie (House). It is a stunner. I have not read the book yet but I like it already because of the show. My most memorable of the Le Carrés are The Spy Who Came Out From the Cold, The George Smiley Series, The Tailor from Panama and the Russia House I remember for being tedious. Though Le Carré's books are not suspenseful in a bloody, action sense, I always insist on finishing them because I imagine his views on covert operations are closer to reality, it has more leg work, interrogation and drawn out cloak and dagger exchanges versus high octane chases and commotion. 

The suspense in Le Carré’s novels I believe are in human flaws, mishaps in timing and the deep malevolence of the villain and if one becomes gripped at the start, the entire package of the book from the characters, the plot, subplots and other nuances will be embedded in your memory.

The Night Manager:

Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is a night manager at a reputable hotel in Cairo, Egypt during the height of the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Mubarak. He is charming and people are drawn to him, especially women. A mysterious woman named Sophia who is the mistress of a known Egyptian baddie approaches him at the front desk and gives him a copy of a transaction of an arms deal with instructions that should anything happen to her, this information must be given to a friend of Jonathan Pine's at the British Embassy. Pine reads the document and realizes that the man supplying the arms is a famous British philanthropist/businessman named Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Pine shows this information to his friend at the embassy who then submits it to MI6 but instead of an investigation or arrest, Roper is warned of the leak from the inside. This results in the brutal murder of Sophia as the paper trail leads to her and Pine is affected by this. Sophia’s death makes a painful impression on Pine that he seeks solace at the Swiss alps in an exclusive hotel lodge and stays there to hide.

Four years has past and who should enter the Swiss lodge but none other than the evil man himself in the flesh, Richard Roper with his entourage. Pine’s righteous indignation for the man is rekindled and he gets re-acquainted with the head of an obscure MI6 division, Angela Burr, who attempted to help the Cairo situation back then. Angela Burr (played by Olivia Coleman), has a vendetta with Roper. Burr recruits Pine to help her take down “the worst man on Earth,” and allows him to infiltrate Roper's inner circle. Pine builds another identity, that of a lowlife criminal on the run, one who is close in character as possible to Roper and the gambit pays off when he is then taken in by the villain himself. While inside the core group, Pine wins the affections of Roper’s kid, girlfriend and even the henchmen. And since he has to leak information to his handlers in London and not to mention he does not keep his hands to himself as regards Roper’s gorgeous girlfriend, it is here where most of the sweating of one's palms begin.

The TV show is very sophisticated, it has posh elements and locations like Mallorca, London, Istanbul; it has high fashion wardrobe, champagne, luxury and everything else that blood money has to offer coming from the arms trade. The actors are superb and they include, Tom Hiddleston who is able to carry it through mainly because of his perfect visage, hey, it really works. Hugh Laurie who plays Roper is urbane and pragmatic as someone who doesn’t think twice about mixing Sarin gas and children, perhaps the pathology lies in not having a line and Laurie's performance makes the mark. Olivia Coleman is a watchable dramatic actor always and so is Tom Hollander as Corky, the cynical assistant who is threatened by Pine's existence.  But the Easter Egg here in my view is the actress that plays Roper’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Debiki; a newbie from Australia who I know will go high towards the stratosphere in movies, not because she is 6 feet and 2-inches bare feet, but for of the soul she bares as a performer; with her the adage in acting that goes, “There are no small parts…” is fulfilled. Move over, way over there Charlize Theron.  

The spy drama has 6 episodes in the first series and the suspense lies in whether Pine's cover will be blown and that indeed captures you. The initial series has now concluded at the BBC, already people are thirsting for the second installment and who can blame them?

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