Jan 18, 2017

[TV] The Night Manager (Mini-Series)

There is something about British television that I really enjoy for one reason or another. One of the big points is always about how they work with shorter seasons that I feel leads to tighter writing along with other factors. Thus there are a lot of British shows that Tobie and I end up enjoying a lot because why not, right?

The Night Manager is a show that I didn't hear about initially but later on Tobie's network alerted him to the series. Beyond it featuring some well-known actors, it was also rather relevant fare for a project that Tobie is working on with several others. Thus it got bumped up from "interesting to watch" to "required viewing".

And man, this was a rather intense series indeed. I'm kind of glad that it's "only" a mini-series, although I can totally see how one might be able to extend this into something more long-term with additional stories. But they made some very smart choices in terms of how they put things together.

Synopsis: The Night Manager is a British television serial based on a book of the same name by John le Carré. The screenplay as written by David Farr and was directed by Susanne Bier.

The show centers around Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), who starts as the night manager at a luxury hotel but ends up as something much more. A unique guest draws him into a complicated situation and how that resolves forever changes him. Eventually is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) to aid with her investigation.

The challenge is for him to pose as the sort of person who would be recruited into the organization of Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie). In the public eye he's a big business man who has done a fair amount of good for the world. But he's also a major arms dealer and somehow his has managed to weasel himself into the intelligence community somehow. The plan means that Jonathan needs to become a very different man, but he remains committed to his goals.

What I Loved: The show is an amazing example of the sort of double lives one gets into as an intelligence asset. It's not your typical espionage fare given we don't exactly have Jonathan armed to the teeth with gadgets and other tricks. Instead he's only trained and prepped to become his new persona and is largely left on his own to figure things out.

Hiddleston is pretty great in this role. He's still a little charming  but more you seem him being calculating and careful as he is playing a dangerous game. Then you have Hugh Laurie being intimidating and scary but in very intelligent ways. He's definitely not Dr. Gregory House but is someone chilling nonetheless.

The story as a whole has a lot of clever twists and turns, as one would expect from something developed originally as a book. But I guess credit there goes to how it was translated into the into a cinematic experience for television.

What Could Have Been Better: As is often the case for shows of this nature, there are a good number of moments when characters are speaking fairly quickly but also very softly. It's not whispering but more a lot of characters being all cool, calm, and collected. And that can be hard to understand at times, especially with so many characters engaged in similar methods of dialog.

And all the twists and turns can be a little confusing or at least hard to keep track of, but that's sort of required when it comes to things like this. Maybe some diversions weren't necessary but this only covers a limited number of plot points.

TL;DR: The Night Manager is a great spy-style story that has lots of tradecraft but minimal flair. We have a strong story, great acting and very memorable visual treatment coming together for a great mini-series. Thus the show gets 4.5 surprise decisions by Jonathan out of a possible 5.


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