The BBC have brought to the small screen in their 'Pure Drama' field an updated and altered John le Carre adaptation to fill up our Sunday evenings for the next six weeks.
The novel, The Night Manager, was released in 1993 and set in Cairo; the adaptation by David Farr (Spooks) has been updated to January 2011 in the same city during the now famous Arab Spring. We encounter a white British man, Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston - all charm and confidence) walking through the battered backstreets of the Egyptian capital as revolution takes place.
At work, he is suave and debonair, breezily dealing with rocket attacks on his hotel as international guests attempt to flee the city. That night he meets a mistress of a renowned family man, Freddie Hamid; she is Sophie, a middle Eastern jewel. They flirt and they inevitably sleep together, she imparts upon Pine some information relating to the Hamid family buying weapons and munitions from renowned wicked man, Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Sophie calls Roper, 'the worst man in the world'.
Pine fears for Sophie's wellbeing after giving this information to a delegate at the British embassy, Simon (Russell Tovey) who hands it on to a bitter worker of the International Enforcement Agency in Victoria, London; Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), who is seemingly at loggerheads with MI6 in how to capture Roper and his machavellian ways of trade and commerce.
Pine's fears are realised when Sophie is killed in her hotel room, this leads to a fast forward to four years later where Pine has relocated to Zermatt, Switzerland at the Meiseters Hotel in the Alps over the Christmas period. The hotel is expecting a late arrival of guests, namely Roper and his entourage including a fay Tom Hollander as Roper's dogsbody.
Pine sees this as a chance to help the UK government entrap Roper and so contacts Burr who comes to Zermatt personally to meet up, and so begins their mission to get Roper.
If this all sounds so BBC, so British and so Bond; you would not be wrong with that assumption. The film (and it is a film, under the guise of a television series) is directed by Suzanne Bier and she does well to shoot a sense of place from the sweaty humidity of Cairo, to the juxtaposition of a freezing London office with no heating ending with the picture postcard beauty of the Alpine landscape.
This can be construed as one long James Bond audition for Hiddleston, who does well with his calm moments and allows Pine moments of sensitivity and naturalness, such as throwing up after checking Roper into his room. Yet being an ex-soldier who served in Iraq, he knows how war works and how it affects you; Pine is self-effacing and ready for a challenge, the way he gets the sim cards from Roper's phones is both ingenious and smart.
This is event television the like of which the BBC has strained for a number of years, but it shows that to gain that event status of a high water mark series you need the perfect storm of three actors (Hiddleston, Colman, Laurie) at the apex of their careers, a stellar supporting unit of familiar BBC faces (Hollander and Tovey), a renowned internationally acclaimed director (Bier). And the story, it is always about the story. The combination of le Carre, the BBC and Hiddleston makes this a drama not to miss.