Monday, February 29, 2016

It’s Homeland Without the Lithium, or Tom Hiddleston as The Night Manager

The spy genre has never fully recovered from the glory days of the Cold War.  It may have something to do with our 24-hour news cycle; the intelligence services rely on information and these days it seems as if we know just about as much as they do, sometimes earlier.  There may be a cultural perception of the CIA and other agencies dropping the ball in 9/11, and that has led to a cynicism and disappointment that is reflected in contemporary spy dramas like Showtime’s Homeland or the wish-fulfillment action binges of Jason Bourne or Mission Impossible.  Homeland has almost become a cliché of waiting for Carrie to go off her meds, and those action movies are more about American actors saving the world once again than the thoughtful and poignant world of keeping secrets and recruiting assets.
However that Cold War drama of an ordinary man caught between overwhelming forces has been updated for the 21st Century in The Night Manager, a BBC-One miniseries based on John le Carré’s 26 year-old novel.  The miniseries is immediately compelling thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s sensitive and nuanced performance as Jonathan Pine, the titular night manager of a swanky Cairo hotel.
As the night manager during the 2011 Egyptian revolution Jonathan Pine is both concierge and confidant to the ex-pat British residents and Cairo elite that frequent his hotel.  When the beautiful mistress from a ruling family hands him a shipping manifest of weapons from a British arms dealer for safekeeping, Jonathan can’t help but to leak the documents to a friend at British Embassy.  This ultimately leads to the death of the beautiful mistress and Jonathan’s primary motivation for bringing the aforementioned British arms dealer to justice.
Four years later, now the night manager in a swanky hotel in Switzerland, Jonathan Pine gets his chance to lock horns with that British arms dealer, played with insouciant malice by the consistently perfect Hugh Laurie as Richard Roper.  He reaches out to his contact at MI-6, played by Olivia Colman aka Sophie from Peep Show, and dives headfirst into the spy game.  He’s a natural at copying information and digging sim cards out of the trash.
There are no gadgets, parkour chases or last minute cut the red wire and save the world scenes.  Instead the viewer is treated to an extended mental chess match between Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie.  Some viewers may find this boring, but I don’t think those people are reading this blog.  The rest of us will find The Night Manager to be a refreshing thougtful spy thriller, written for adults with enough patience to quietly watch as the Great Game unfolds.

And as a side note, everyone knows Hugh Laurie as House but what about Bertie Wooster, and his stellar work in Blackadder and A Bit of Fry and Laure?  He spent the first half of his career in comedy but unlike his American counterparts (I’m looking at you, Jim Carey) he was able to slip out from under that yoke and merge into an even more successful dramatic career.  It must be the accent.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.