The Night Manager might comprise numerous spy-related clichés, but it stands out due to its proficient cast, and allows them to make the most out of their talents. I will elaborate further on into this review of the six-episodes miniseries which contains spoilers.
Based on the 1993 eponymous novel by John le Carre, The Night Manager follows the titular figure Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), who is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), to go undercover into the weapons-dealing business of Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie).
The miniseries stands out due to its stellar performances by the well-cast ensemble. Tom Hiddleston, who is renowned for playing Loki in the MCU, is dashing as the lead hero. He managed to put on a splendid show of a different type of character from his villainous persona in the Marvel movies. But sophomore top-billed Hugh Laurie reigns supreme with his portrayal of the antagonist Richard Roper.
Laurie is used to playing upper-class roles and he uses both his slick British accent, and the flamboyant attire, to further his aim of coming across as not just another fiend. Although, he is moderately included at the start of the serial, the finale gave him the perfect chance to steal away the spotlight from leading man Hiddleston.
The other thespians also gave notable acts. Tom Hollander played Corky; the individual we loved to hate. I considered Elizabeth Debicki to be a bit lacking in talent as Jed for the initial half of the show, though she made up for it with better acting in the second half, and especially, in the final chapter.
In addition, I thought the third-paramount enactment was by Olivia Colman who portrayed pregnant intelligence-officer Angela Burr. In one episode, I reckon that it was the 5th chapter, she gave a speech on how the horror of her time in Iraq changed her perspective on war.
This leads me to the conflict angle of The Night Manager. We have four main characters with totally distinct motives: Jonathan Pine wanted revenge for the woman he loved in Egypt. Burr’s changed viewpoint of the world justified her hatred for Roper throughout the exhibition. Roper himself is a capitalist who considers himself an acolyte of Winston Churchill, and his own political ideologies make him out to be a figure who understands the world, but wanted to do everything for his own gain. In one episode, he explained to Pine what it meant to be a free man. And after listening to that speech we all should question whose side are we on in this war on terror? That is, if we start taking political science too seriously. But for the matter of entertainment, this limited-episodes series tackled those matters diplomatically, and from multiple governmental standpoints. The fourth primary character is of course Roper’s girlfriend Jed who has a son of her own, and it’s evident early on that she’s in the relationship for the cash.
The miniseries also makes usage of both the thrill factor and the dialogues. The latter is helped in part due to Laurie’s dazzling vocal delivery. And that is one area that Hiddleston needs to concentrate on when he’s playing on the good side. Many producers are considering Hiddleston to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond later on. In my opinion, Hiddleston has the looks and stature for it, but he seriously needs to work on his tone of voice. With a little more experience, he is likely to earn that spot in the highest-earning espionage franchise.
For the former point, the series is thrilling throughout the totality of the six hour-long episodes. However, chapter three was extremely boring, but despite the slow build-up, the conclusion was satisfying, albeit, abrupt.
The Night Manager falls far from glory due to incorporating elements of repetition, coincidences, and predictability. Okay, we get that Jonathan Pine is taking revenge on Roper due to sleeping with a wealthy Egyptian guy’s mistress who was considered as promiscuous. You would think that if a one-night stand gave the hero motive then he would not repeat this mistake. So, the inclusion of his affair with Jed was by far too clichéd.
The venture also encompassed coincidences like Corky not telling Roper earlier about Pine and Jed to Roper when he himself had nothing to lose as a loyal aid, a line of taxis being available near a refugee camp and militia base, and last but not the least: Roper, a veteran businessman, did not torture the information out of Pine after he rescued his kid. I mean it just so happened that this guy who was a night manager in Switzerland happened to be a chef when his child was being kidnapped. Still, I might be a tad too critical on this as writer David Farr did cleverly depict Pine’s cover as an international criminal.
Predictability is also too prominent throughout the series, although it’s not too foreseeable for those who don’t usually watch entertainment in this category, but for those who do it’s a different manner. Of course, there are bad apples in the MI6 group. Of course, Jed would have ultimately led to the exposure of Pine’s cover. And of course, it all happily concluded, though the novel itself had an ambiguous ending with Roper and his allies still ending up safe and sound.
Yet, the screenwriter was also adept by showcasing a finisher where we can only guess at what would’ve happened with Roper and his colleagues. The finale was finished off in a Fleming-esque style, and the overall narrative of The Night Manager, could make for a James Bond script. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s up to the viewers to decide.
To end with, The Night Manager might’ve had a rushed closure, but its power lies more in its characterization than its dramatization of semi-predictable events. It’s not the finest of its genre, but given the limited duration, it does do justice to the medium.