TV Review: The Night Manager (Pilot)

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PLOT: The night manager (Tom Hiddleston) of a luxury hotel is recruited by British Intelligence to infiltrate the inner circle of a notorious arms dealer (Hugh Laurie).

REVIEW: Fresh-off the incredible limited-runs of Fargo and American Crime Story: The People vs O.J Simpson, comes another mini-series that once again proves how, in many cases, TV is the ideal place for sophisticated adult entertainment. Distinct from an ongoing series, a limited run tends to be more attractive for hot-ticket directors and performers, and sure enough movie-star Tom Hiddleston proves in his superbly-tailored part as hotelier/spy Jonathan Pine, that the best star vehicle these days can often be found on the small-screen.

the night manager tom hiddleston

It certainly helps that in every way, The Night Manager doesn’t feel like TV. With exotic location photography, top-shelf production values and the sure-hand of director Susanne Bier (AFTER THE WEDDING, IN A BETTER WORLD) at the helm of all six episodes, this has more in common with a James Bond movie than anything we’ve seen lately - even on premium cable. An AMC/BBC co-production, The Night Manager is based on John le Carré’s novel, and even as far as his iconic books go, this is a great yarn.

It’s all anchored by the hero, Jonathan Pine, who’s compelling right from the moment we meet him, as he navigates the Arab Spring as the night manager of a luxury hotel in Egypt. Impeccably polished, with a plummy English accent, Pine initially seems unflappable until the beautiful mistress of a wealthy Egyptian money-man entrusts him with some documents that he immediately deduces is an order for a massive weapons inventory, which he turns over to a former army buddy, who now works at the British embassy.

Embarking on a torrid affair with the woman (the beautiful Aure Atika), Pine isn’t able to save her from a violent fate while the British embassy basically throws her to the wolves, and his guilt compels him to take a job at an isolated hotel in Switzerland, only to have the man he holds responsible for her death, suspected arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) walk through his door one evening.

In some ways, this feels like a bit of 007 audition for Hiddleston, with his Pine evoking a different kind of gentleman spy than the one played by Daniel Craig in the latest Bonds. With Hiddleston, they’d have a more elegant, sophisticated Bond more in line with Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton (but far more serious than Roger Moore) which might be a welcome direction for the series to eventually take after a recent, harder-edged run. This is all speculation, but it’s not hard to imagine something like The Night Manager catapulting Hiddleston to the attention of the Bond producers the same way LAYER CAKE did for Craig.

the night manager tom hiddleston elizabeth dibicki

Otherwise, it’s a real departure for Hiddleston from the scenery-chewing Loki and a real interesting look at what he can do with the right material. It’s early in the series still, but Hiddleston commands every scene and evokes a truly sympathetic, idealistic vibe that’s a stark departure from le Carré’s more cynical heroes. It’s actually Olivia Colman, as the underpaid spy handler who seems the most in-line with the author’s usual work, but it’s a great new direction and there’s no doubt Pine’s going to go down as one of the great characters to emerge from TV this year.

As the baddie, Hugh Laurie gets only a small dose of screen-time in episode one, but the effect of having him spoken about in hushed-tones and whispers before his eventual entrance means he’s already established menace by the time he shows up. Adopting a laid-back, nice-guy vibe he’s the opposite of other TV kingpins like Vincent D’Onofrio on Daredevil or Jeffrey Dean Morgan on The Walking Dead. He’s charismatic and seemingly good-natured, making him a unique baddie so far. Elizabeth Debicki is drop-dead gorgeous as his trophy girlfriend, Jed, and despite only one scene together, her chemistry with Hiddleston seems strong (if she winds-up his love interest, as I assume from the previews).

While we’re only one episode into a six episode run, already The Night Manager seems like appointment viewing and a terrific miniseries to more than make up for so many of the good shows like Better Call Saul and American Crime Story, that have wrapped-up for the season. The Night Manager is yet more proof that TV these days can be just as cinematic as films, and I have a feeling this will be raved about in the weeks to come.

Source: JoBlo.com



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