The Night Manager

The Night ManagerAlmost all the reviews I’ve seen on the new BBC drama, The Night Manager, make favourable comparisons with the Bond movies from the sumptuous opening titles onwards.

Whether Tom Hiddleston is a James Bond is another matter, but he is certainly putting in a good audition for the part, and is likely to get more so as the action hots up.

The six-part series is based on Le Carré’s 1993 post-Cold War novel, but has been updated while keeping the heart of the story the same. It begins in Cairo during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 with Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston) making his way through the protesting crowds in a city teetering on the edge of violence.

He is making his way to the Hotel Nefertiti where he works as the night manager of the title. There he is approached by the beautiful Sophie Aleka, mistress of some well-connected Egyptian playboy, and she hands Pine a sheaf of confidential papers to copy and hand to his chum at the British embassy ‘in case anything should happen to me’. Why she does this isn’t clear. Perhaps he motives are pure, or more likely because she facies the pants of him.

The papers are a shopping list of terror, an arsenal of conventional and chemical weapons that might be used to crush the popular uprising and being the honest, upright Brit that he is, Pine passes on the copies straight away. In turn they make their way to a mysterious intelligence agency in London run by the feisty and very northern Angela Burr (Olivia Colman). For her, it is an opportunity to finally pin something on the unscrupulous arms dealer, Richard Roper.

Hugh Lawrie and Tom Hiddleston

Hugh Lawrie and Tom Hiddleston

But someone in the corridors of power does not want the deal stopped or see the rise of yet another fundamentalist state in the Middle East. Not only is Burr prevented from taking action, but Roper and his Egyptian contacts are tipped off about the leaked documents.

Unsurprisingly, Sophie finds herself being murdered in her hotel room, despite Pine’s best efforts to keep her safe.

Fast forward to 2016 and Pine is now the night manager at a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland, and who should arrive one night but the odious Richard Roper (the worst man in the world according to Sophie) plus his entourage, there to conclude yet another of his immoral arms deals.

Years of Hide and SeekPine decides to act and taking a book from the shelf in his room for Burr’s phone number that he stashed significantly within the page of The Letters of T E Lawrence at part four – The Years of Hide and Seek. He meets Burr who asks him how far he is prepared to go to bring down Roper, and thus ends episode one.

Hugh Lawrie is excellent as ever as Richard Roper. I found myself thinking of Nigel Farage in his performance, someone I quite like as a character, if not for his politics. Lawrie’s Roper has that same combination of hail-fellow-well-met with an underlying sense of malice and menace that is nothing short of disturbing.

The story has been adapted by David Farr who also wrote for the excellent Spooks and he has done an equally good job here of updating the characters (Angela Burr is called Leonard in the book) while maintaining the essence of the plot.

The Night Manager is BBC drama at it very best for me and I recommend you watch it while it is still available on iPlayer if only for the brilliant opening title graphics.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Sheila 28th February 2016

    The ‘Night Manager’ is more like a Marvel superhero than Bond-esque character to me. He finds as anti-social a job as possible, with a stiff, cool persona that is all at once subservient and supercilious. The opening scene of his walk through chaos suggests either an indifference to death, or a sense of omnipotence that renders him impervious to harm. Are these delusional defenses for a hidden abyss of terror or rage or both? There are shades of Bruce Wayne and Batman, although the Night Manager has a much more humble alter ego.

    As for Sophie, maybe she wanted the papers lodged in the safe to hold over Hamid as security so that she wouldn’t get murdered? Staying alive is usually a priority over sex? But then Mr Pine’s glances up through his eyelashes are positively Diana-esque, and so why not, especially if he might get her a ticket out of there. Sex has been her trade, and with it she gets under his radar, or maybe she is the ‘tart with a heart’ and that is what pierces his defenses? Either way, her death crystalises in him a desire for revenge, not just served cool, but ice cold.

    We also have Roper as a superbly louche villain, complete with entourage of henchmen. I laughed out loud when he introduced himself as ‘Dickie’. Tom Hollander plays a nasty viper in the nest who Roper regularly pokes with a stick to make sure he’s always ready to bite. And then there is the magnificent Olivia Colman’s Burr and her lovable sidekick played by Adeel Akhtar (who was also a lovable sidekick in River) as the conscience of the establishment. The Night Manager has neatly filed Colman’s details in his copy of a TE Lawrence book; will Colman persuade the Night Manager to become a modern day Lawrence of Arabia or is that already his fantasy that she merely unlocks?

    These are archetypal characters, dealing with the shadow side of humanity that I find more Gotham than 007 so far. Can’t wait for the next episode!

    • Mr Parrot 28th February 2016

      A neat summary Sheila. I still think that the opening titles lay out the Bond credentials for the series, with the rocket launcher becoming a cocktail glass, the coffee service a chain gun, bombs morphing into pearls and diamonds into cluster bombs.

      I suspect that, as with many series, the opener establishes the characters and draws the viewer in for more. It certainly worked on me!

  • Sheila 29th February 2016

    Fair comment – I can’t argue with the character of the opening titles, and the opening scene of episode one as Bond-like. And things are brewing nicely in episode 2. I loved the scenes with Burr and David Harewood’s American intelligence man and hints at their back story. It was delicious the way that they used the smug culture of ‘been to the right school club’ at ‘River House’ in order to keep them at arms length. It was all too easy to convince them that a woman and a black American won’t be able to trouble anyone.


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