The BBC’s hit adaptation of John Le Carré’s The Night Manager has all the style, sophistication, and elegance of a Bond movie, but requires from its viewers a similar suspension of disbelief.
Now two episodes in, the series features Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, an ex-military night manager in a prestigious hotel in Cairo. Inadvertently becoming a whistle-blower on some of the world’s most powerful and violent men, he finds himself pulled into a world of espionage, working undercover for a branch of MI5.
Featuring a charmingly British spy, travel-brochure worthy destinations, action-packed sequences, and a diabolical villain with a beautiful and sympathetic companion, this drama is strongly reminiscent of classic James Bond movies. Whilst the direct result of this is a highly entertaining watch, The Night Manager is a struggle to take seriously. Despite the production team’s best attempts to place the plot in today’s world, it is too unrealistic to have any subversive sense that it could be hinting at reality.
In the midst of the glamour is Angela Burr, played by Olivia Coleman, an unpretentious MI5 operative with a vendetta against Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), working in a seemingly unpoliced investigation team. Whilst the down to earth but somewhat shabby nature of her character provides a contrast to the rest of the seamlessly sophisticated characters, it is loaded with unrealistic cliché. The first episode saw her office lose heating, the second a discussion about her project on a bridge in the middle of London. The concept of the character may have worked in the context of Le Carré’s original novel, but in this modernised version such old fashioned features are hard to swallow.
Le Carré’s original novel was set during the Cold War, and the modernisation of this adaptation that puts it within the context of the Arab Spring and refugee-related philanthropy generally works well. It is a clever use of the popularity of the novel within an accessible and interesting context.
The Night Manager might not be the most convincing or realistic portrayal of the dealings of MI5 in the current world, but it certainly provides easy entertainment: it is perfect Sunday evening television.
Image: Maliz Ong