A sophisticated, smooth and well-groomed Englishman named Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is working the night shift in Cairo as the night manager. He gets romantically involved with the girlfriend of a local gangster. Most people would have run without a second thought, not Pine though. Through her relationship with this local hoodlum, she has been subjected to sensitive information in relation to linking illegal arms deals with Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), an English billionaire.
Her body is soon found by local police and when you know too much about the wrong people, they do whatever is necessary to stop those involved from talking. Fearing for his self-preservation, Pine flees to a secluded hotel in Switzerland. Two years have passed, and Pine thinks the worse is behind him but in fact, the worst has yet to come. Roper visits the hotel and this is when the story really begins. This revives Pine’s lust for retribution of his murdered love, and he is recruited by British Intelligence service to spy on Roper. What follows is a dangerous story of corruption, politics, intrigue and corporate espionage.
The premise of this tale of espionage is like deja-vu, but the twists and turns within are something new to me entirely. With most crime dramas, the main character is normally predictable. He or she is broken from a past that they’d rather forget. They can’t stay in a relationship for long and their methods are often unorthodox. This character is often in battle with their own morality in the middle of good and evil, but also what is perceived as right and wrong. They are willing to do whatever needs to be done to take down a criminal, even if that means breaking the law to do it. Characters like Idris Elba’s John Luther (Luther), Sgt. Catherine Cawood (Happy Valley), the PI Jessica Jones from the hit Netflix series and even James McNalty & Lester Freeman (The Wire) when they trolled the Baltimore Police Department into doing actual police work rather than sitting on their arses hiding behind office politics.
The BBC have developed knack of churning out quality crime dramas like Luther, Happy Valley and Peaky Blinders as well as awesome period history and costume dramas such as Poldark, White Queen, Wolf Hall, Pride & Prejudice (with Colin Firth) and Emma. The BBC aren’t strangers to Jane Austen but they’re also developing more grit and brawn in their original storytelling. There was once a time when the BBC wouldn’t dare show a lady’s ankle on television due to it being overly scandalous like something out of Downton Abbey. Oh, how times have changed, as we see a steamy example of the rumpy pumpy between Hiddleston and his now deceased lover. The show is told over six, one hour-long episodes. I think they tried to pack too much in to six hours. They should have expanded it over to eight episodes at eight hours. Bits felt rushed but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality storytelling. The show stars the British talent of Tom Hiddleston (Avengers), Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch) and Hugh Laurie (House). These actors are so versatile, that even the likes of Johnny Depp (Black Mass) would have a job keeping up with them.
Hiddleston is probably the most well-known out of the three leads in the show, but Hugh Laurie steals it. He’s one of those actors who has ‘presence’. He could steal a whole scene without even saying anything. He’d stand in a room with everyone else talking, and all the eyes would be on him. He magnetises and entraps the audience. This guy has presence, and he’s been away from the limelight for far too long. The Night Manager is a modern-day adaptation of the John LeCarré novel. LeCarré is the author of great novels like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), A Most Wanted Man (2008) and the recently adapted Our Kind Of Traitor (2013). The crime thriller author is a great talent having many of his novels adapted for television or film as we saw with Damian Lewis (Billions) and Ewan McGregor (The Impossible) in ‘Any Kind Of Traitor’ (2016).
Laurie has delivered one of the best television performances of 2016 as Richard Roper. The man’s performance is godly, it’s the stuff of legend.The secret to the show’s success isn’t epic storytelling nor is it modern concepts, it’s Laurie. His performance is masterclass and otherworldly. I was delighted to see him excel and get his mits into a juicy, complex and a love-to-hate character. Roper is psychotic but I couldn’t help but like him, even with everything that he did. Laurie made that role his own and I loved it. His portrayal as Richard Roper is truly a wonderful example of method acting.
I felt the Panama Files leaks were forgotten awfully quickly and The Night Manager allowed its memory to linger, even if it was only for an extra six weeks. The release of The Night Manager seems timely if not coincidental. The big leak showed us the way fat cats use shell companies to commit tax evasion as well as other shady goings-on. If you don’t believe me, ask #DodgyDave. Roper would fit right into the crowd like a block in a game of Tetris. Roper pretends to be a philanthropist when he’s anything but. He pays anyone off he thinks could impair his activities, even high-ranking government officials in British intelligence. Many are willing to turn the other cheek if Roper gives them a fat wodge of cash.
Colman is our righteous enforcer of the law. She is willing to go after anyone who she believes is breaking it. She doesn’t care about politics. The law is the law, and she will do her utmost to get those who are hurting others. She’s on a mission to get Roper, even if that means going through her corrupt work colleagues to do so. She has no time for the sins of bad men, especially men who pretend to be good when in fact they are as bad as it gets. Colman’s Angela Burr wants to catch Roper with his hand in the cookie jar. Her obsession with him doesn’t fizzle out until episode six in a very emotional yet provocative scene, in the sense it’ll probably make you hate the world because things like that actually happen. Olivia Colman spews charisma and conviction. She’s no-nonsense, very alike to Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood who seems to recruit people unintentionally. Her unwavering morality to do the right thing inspires those around her, even if that means getting in trouble with the big bosses, no matter how dirty they are. Their hypocrisy isn’t even laughable.
Burr to Roper is what Jessica Jones is Kilgrave. With each episode, the obsession from her to him, becomes even more intense. Roper thinks he’s the best and she’s met her match in him because she’s the best at what she does. She’s already at a disadvantage since he’s paid off her superiors. He’s well-oiled with money and political influence as well as armed bodyguards. Roper is playing a role and he never breaks character. You can tell that he revels in it. Laurie goes with the English, thick, pompous, private school accent. From the suits to the menacing voice and beautiful homes; he is a Bond villain through and through. Laurie doesn’t audibly make threats. His presence does that for him. His eyes are cold and his skin is prickly with a smoothness to it. Roper and Burr bounce off each other like two magnets.
The series is an acting powerhouse. In addition to our original three (Hiddleston, Laurie and Colman), we have David Harwood (Homeland), Tom Hollander (The Thick Of It), Tobias Menzies (Outlander), Douglas Hodge (Penny Dreadful), Neil Morrissey (Grantchester), Katherine Kelly (Happy Valley) and Jonathan Aris (Sherlock). The show is showcasing some of the best of Britain’s television talent. It’s glorious to see and I watched the Night Manager with immense pride knowing that the country I was born and grew up has some really great talent.
In conclusion, the BBC have churned out yet another great British drama. The BBC are on a constant run of spewing quality and I don’t think they’re eager to stop now.