When I saw the trailers of The Night Manager, I was beyond thrilled. For starters, Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston make the most uniquely scintillating duo that my mind could conjure.
Over the next 6 hours, the miniseries (based on John le Carré's 1993 novel) unfolded, revealing enough plot twists to be mistaken for a James Bond movie. Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) plays a hotel night manager and a fledgling spy who is on a mission to bring down an illegal arms dealer, Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). He infiltrates Roper's inner circle - under the command of British Intelligence Operative, Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) - and also falls in love with his fiancé Jed (Elizabeth Debicki).
The cast dazzles bright. Hiddleston is the classic debonair heartthrob whereas Laurie is dark and despicable. The set, the fashion, the cinematography - everything is exquisite. Yes, The Night Manager has all the makings of an unforgettable TV series. Yet, by the end of the final episode, I was left feeling unsatisfied. I realised that it was because the series never delivered the sheer brilliance it promised.
Hiddleston is believable as the broken-hearted man seeking retribution for a lost lover. However, we don't get any insight into who he really is or how he came to be. There is rarely an origin story, and when there is, it isn't believable. Roper is never more than a seemingly menacing monster and Jed remains a damsel in distress throughout. Colman's Angela Burr has tenacity. Her character comes closest to offering the audience an individual who is more than just a vision of good fighting evil.
While the plot isn't bad, it rarely confuses you. It's complicated enough to warrant your attention, but an espionage story where it's possible to judge all the characters at face value is one that sacrifices its most effective tool that is duplicity. Since I haven't read the book, I don't know whether the plot stays completely true to the narrative. But so far, I can't figure out how such an impressive cast delivered such stagnant performances. On the positive side, director Susanne Bier did an impressive job bringing the novel to life. Cinematographer Michael Snyman created the perfect concoction of dark glamour and grandeur visually, which I would say brought the show on the same league as Houses of Cards. Victor Reyes created a score that is haunting.
While The Night Manager is definitely beautiful and entertaining, it doesn't blow you away. Maybe the problem lies in what we consider to be “good” television with series such as House of Cards, Breaking Bad and Narcos having raised the bar too high. In this era, visual eye candy is just not going to cut it.
Mithi Chowdhury is a dog-loving-movie-watching-mediocrity-fearing normal person. Either that or a penguin. Find out at firstname.lastname@example.org