Thursday, April 21, 2016

Good Night

I just watched the first episode (of six) of the much-touted AMC miniseries The Night Manager.  It's based on the John le Carre novel of the same name.  I've never read le Carre--I don't read spy novels in general--but I recognize he's considered the gold standard in the genre.  But how is the TV adaptation?

The title character is Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), whom we first meet as the night manager at a fancy hotel in Cairo during the Arab Spring uprising (an update from the novel which was published in the 1990s). The mistress of a powerful local man passes information to Pine about how her lover is buying weapons from British philanthropist--and secret arms dealer--Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). (Too bad his character shares the name, if not quite the spelling, of columnist and film critic Richard Roeper--well, it distracted me, anyway).

Pine brings the information to the British embassy where it's sent to an MI5 agent in London, Angela Burr (Olivia Colman).  She wants to dig into Roper's activities, but he's so powerful and connected that he gets wind of it and shuts down the investigation.  Meanwhile, the mistress--with whom Pine has had an affair--is murdered.

Most of the first episode is taken up with this story, which is a bit dry.  And it turns out only to be the prologue.  Based on the ads, I thought the series would be some battle of wits between Hiddleston and Laurie, so it was disappointing to have to wait so long for them to meet.

Anyway, four years later, Pine is the night manager at a nice place in Switzerland (can't he get a day job?) and, sure enough, Roper and his entourage--including lovely mistress Jed (Elizabeth Debicki)--check in.  Now we've got something going.

Pine collects information about Roper, but we don't know what Roper is doing there, or how much, if anything, he knows about Pine.  Pine calls Burr, who shows up and asks him to help work on the Roper case, and he's apparently game.  End of episode one.

The main fun looks to be the cat-and-mouse game between the two leads.  It's hard to judge it from the first episode--though the whole thing has already played in Britain where it got good reviews.  It's promising enough to watch again, and hopefully the intrigue will pick up now that the two men are circling each other.

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