Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Night Manager Mini-series Review

The Night Manager (2016)
Mini-series - 6 episodes
Watch The Night Manager on Amazon Video for free with a Prime Membership
Written by: David Farr (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Colman
Rated: TV-MA

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous TV reviews!

Hotel night manager Jonathon Pine (Tom Hiddleston) volunteers for an undercover operation to infiltrate the inner circle of arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie).

While this is a really good series, it's a slow burn. After four episodes I was wondering why there was so much hype. Is it just because it's well acted? I found the hype after the last two episodes, which  make the entire series better and provide the needed punch and action.
This is a well acted undercover spy thriller, focusing more on tension than explosions.
Watch it.

There's quite a bit of setup to The Night Manager. We don't get into the heart of the story until the third episode. That's okay since Hiddleston and Laurie bring the series to life. Their acting is great, even the Golden Globes agree with Hiddleson, Laurie, and Olivia Colman each winning an award. It's based on a book, which provides the blue print for a smart script, though I still felt like there need to be a bigger time jump to make Pine's rise to right hand man more believable.

The camera work gets a little too artsy at times. While I don't mind the frequent closeups, there is a lot of shifting focus from foreground to background or vice versa.
Jonathon Pine.
Jonathon Pine is the night manager at a Cairo hotel. He's a former soldier and learns of an arms deal. He wants to leak the information, which I get, but he also gets involved with the woman that leaked the information to him. I just couldn't figure out his stake. He takes giant risks as their short-lived relationship moved too far too fast for what we saw.
The arms deal was brokered by Richard 'Dickie' Roper, a decorated humanitarian who uses that as a front to sell weapons.

Years later, intelligence officer Angela Burr later coerces Pine into infiltrating Roper's organization. Pine creates a backstory and gains access to Roper's estate by "saving" his son in a fake mission.
Jed and Dickie Roper.
By episode three Pine, now using the alias Andrew Birch, has risen up the ranks. This episode stretched my suspension of disbelief. I can buy that Roper feels indebted to Pine for saving his son's life, but this is a guy that needs to be beyond paranoid. When your top advisor is telling you to be careful, wouldn't you listen?
Not only does Roper let Pine wander around the estate, he promotes him to his right hand man. This just seems like a business where a background check isn't enough.
Pine breaks into Roper's secret office. The alarm is "tested" daily, which means it's triggered and ineffective for fifteen minutes every day at eleven. If that isn't bad enough, the only papers Roper keeps in his desk are the exact ones Pine needs to send back to operations.

I wondered if the show was preparing a trick. Pine is the head of a front company under the alias Andrew Birch. Is Roper setting Pine up?
Pine never seemed concerned enough about how deep he was getting. In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose. At least this undercover story doesn't resort to the in too deep trope where Pine becomes friends with Roper and doesn't want to ruin him. Pine is committed to the cause.

Roper's much younger wife has an interest in Pine. I knew that would come back to bite him later. At least the series had already established Pine's hero complex where he falls for the women he wants to save.
Pine's relationship with Roper's wife Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) never felt anything more than contrived. It's an attraction that can't be explained because it's only point is drama, another avenue for him to get caught.

This is Pine's first arms deal, and Roper lets him do all the talking. It just sets Pine up as too smooth. What did they do before Pine? Obviously they were successful on previous deals, so who did the talking?
Roper discovers Pine's subterfuge.
Episode five and six are great. Finally, everything comes together with action and payoff. I liked seeing how the arms deal works. Pine is finally on the edge of being caught, which provides much needed tension. Of course he risks his life for the girl.
Why do the rich not get caught? Because they have enough money to pay everyone off. Roper has people in the top level of MI6 watching out for him.
The last two episodes retroactively make the preceding episodes better. Through episode four this series was just alright, but episodes five and six changed my mind. This ends really well. The last episode goes all in with Pine and Roper squaring off. Roper has his tricks, but Pine has a plan too.

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