Another marquee BBC drama premiered on Sunday night, this time the eagerly awaited adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston.
Le Carre is a master of the spy and thriller genre and many of us grew up watching the excellent 1980s BBC TV versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People. He is no stranger to the silver screen either, notably The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965), the Oscar-winning Constant Gardener and the compact 2011 retelling of Tinker, Tailor starring Gary Oldman as melancholy spy master George Smiley. There is no denying the quality of these films, but Le Carre is a creative whose stories deserve long-form treatment.
The Night Manager was written in 1993 and has been sensitively updated to give more context through real events. The drama opens in Cairo, Egypt, as the country begins to fragment following the Arab Spring and the titular night manager, Jonathan Pine, finds his position at an exclusive hotel drawing him inexorably into a web of deceit, illegal arms dealing and corruption after he agrees to help the troubled Sophie Alekan.
Pine is a man of honour and conscience; a former soldier turned night auditor to an exclusive, wealthy hotel clientèle. When he passes on documents to the British consul incriminating shady tycoon Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) in illegal arms sales, he finds, to his cost, that the parties whose secrets he has shared have a swift and bloody way of silencing dissenters.
Skip forward four years and the paths of Pine and the Teflon-like Roper cross again as the arms baron arrives at the swish Swiss hotel in which he now works.
Roper being the supremely confident bully that he is, operates safe in the knowledge that money pays for discretion and much more besides. He is a man surrounded by a coterie of sycophantic hangers on and menacing private security and Pine is determined to play a part in his downfall.
The opening episode was very much a scene setter, exploring Pine’s flawed character and idealism. It revealed very little of the story to come but offered enough of Roper, his dark arts and his scheming second in command Corcoran, played with aplomb by Tom Hollander, to warrant a regular perch on the couch on Sunday nights.
The Night Manager is on BBC1, Sundays at 9.00pm.