sun 19/11/2017

The Night Manager, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Night Manager, BBC One

The Night Manager, BBC One

Tom Hiddleston makes a superb le Carré hero

Tom Hollander as the villainous Lance 'Corky' Corcoran

John le Carré's 1993 novel The Night Manager was his first post-Cold War effort, and the fortuitous setting of its early scenes in a hotel in Cairo has allowed TV dramatiser David Farr to move the action forward from the post-Thatcher fallout to the 2011 "Arab Spring".  Here we encountered the fastidiously tailored Jonathan Pine, the titular night manager of the Nefertiti hotel, a man who keeps his head while all around him is panic, gunfire and explosions.

Pine's journey is going to be the mainspring of this six-part series, and judging by the opener, the casting of Tom Hiddleston is likely to exceed everybody's wildest expectations. Pine is a British Army veteran whose two tours in Iraq left him disillusioned with the military life, and has left him a solitary and self-contained figure. He goes about his duties with the urbane calm that we assume would convert into coolness under fire. Later in the story, he's asked by the billionaire industrialist and arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie, pictured below with Elizabeth Debicki) whether he's English. "To the core, sir," Pine reports, with a metaphorical parade ground salute. "Wise man," says Roper.

Possibly it's needless to say that le Carré's view of Englishness is at the very least ambiguous, if not in fact a spherical construction containing any number of versions. Anyhow, Roper is helpfully defined for us as "the worst man in the world", while Pine is another of the author's honourable schoolboys, damaged along the way but unable to resist a heroic adventure when the fateful invitation presents itself. Hiddleston, whom you could picture leading the Paras yomping across the Falklands or breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, achieves a perfect balance of coolness and impetuosity without ever seeming to do anything as vulgar as acting.

As for Roper, he looms over the action like the forbidding image of the Matterhorn, beneath which Pine has taken up a new night managing job at the Meisters hotel in Zermatt. However, the fuse had been lit in Cairo. No doubt it was Pine's impeccable manners and English reserve which recommended him to Sophie Alkelan (Aure Atika), the glamorous but melancholy mistress of vicious Egyptian rich kid Freddie Hamid. Sophie had a batch of documents showing that Hamid planned to buy a heap of weaponry from Roper, perhaps to use in suppressing  Egypt's popular revolt, and wanted Pine to keep it safe for her. When Pine leaked the material to a contact at the British Embassy, he unwittingly signed her death warrant. He's been left seared by memories of their brief romantic fling and her bloodily-battered body.

Several years later, a chance encounter with Roper when he came to stay at the Meisters has reignited a volcano of suppressed emotions. Laurie – Bertie Wooster long gone and his actorly horizons blown wide open through the acerbic agency of Dr Gregory House – oozed a sense of amoral menace as he swept into the Meisters hotel by helicopter, surrounded by his loathesome retinue (including Tom Hollander's snide and sneery Corkoran) and ostentatiously glamorous accessory Jed (Elizabeth Debicki). Pine saw his moment and pulled the pin, getting back in touch with London spook and dedicated Roper-hunter Angela Burr (Olivia Colman, pictured above left). Pine wants his revenge, and despite the freezing Zermatt air, it may not be a dish that's eaten cold.

Roper is helpfully defined for us as 'the worst man in the world', while Pine is another of the author's honourable schoolboys

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters