It is hard to think of a time in my life span when we have been more spoiled in terms of dramatic content and fine acting performances on our television screens.
The last decade or so has seen the rise and rise of sensational and very stylish television series, with a great many fine actors of stage and silver screen lining up to be involved.
On the whole the only worry is that it all may lead to us having too many great expectations, especially after viewing the brand new superb BBC 1-First thriller series The Night Manager.
High-octane drama full of suspense and intrigue as well as brilliantly acted, The Night Manager is a story contemporary of our time. It is the most expensive drama ever produced by the BBC and directed brilliantly by Danish filmmaker Susan Bier.
Screenwriter David Farr has adapted it from a novel by the most infamous spy who came in from the cold, John le Carré, renowned author of fine espionage thrillers. It benefits from being six hours long.
There is a distinguished line up of actors who make up a strong ensemble cast. The Night Manager features Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander, Elizabeth Debicki, Tobias Menzies, Douglas Hodge and David Harewood.
Award winning actor Hugh Laurie brilliantly plays international British businessman, philanthropist and all round bad guy Richard Roper with menace.
He scared the living daylights out of me; a man for whom money is a means to an end – power.
Matching him in a long game is Tom Hiddleston, who plays the cool headed British born Night Manager Jonathan Pine with great élan.
I am sure my three daughter-in-laws would all describe him as ‘maximum eye candy’.
Pine is an ex-soldier who fought in Iraq and is now living in a self-imposed disciplined exile of sorts, hiding out from life by working as The Night Manager in a hotel in Cairo in 2011.
It is only his disciplined army training and his ability to keep a cool head in times of crisis that will see Jonathan Pine survive as the story unravels.
This action takes place first up at the aptly named Nefertiti Hotel where one beautiful and well-connected woman Sophie Alekan (Aure Atika) comes into Pine’s line of sight in the course of one evening.
He discovers she’s in danger from Roper who is also a suspected secret illegal arms dealer, although no one can prove it.
From frame one The Night Manager is absolutely fascinating.
Roper treats the women in his life as toys, although he keeps any illegal activities well hidden from his beautiful young partner Jed Marshall (Australian born Elizabeth Debicki).
It’s only when she finds out that he sells destruction pain and death that she will be in danger too.
I don’t want to provide too many spoilers for what is an incredibly captivating, interesting, intelligent and fast moving show, sure to win awards for its fine acting and creative teams.
So don’t read on unless you are prepared to take risks.
Suffice to say you will be drawn into The Night Manager’s world, where a great deal of the action takes place when we’re asleep.
Superbly filmed and finely acted The Night Manager features spectacular scenery throughout the Mediterranean region, in the Swiss Alps, in Spain, all colourful locations, which contrast with the grey sky of London where men abuse the power they have and no longer benefit the greater good, only themselves.
Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine gives an outstanding performance and like 007, holds the audience in the palm of his hand. He is enigmatic, collected in a crisis while caring deeply, although struggling not to show it.
Born in Westminster, educated at Eton, graduating from the University of Cambridge and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the 35 year old has a solid career already behind him.
His turns in the fantasy movies Thor as Chris Hemsworth’s brother Loki have helped.
Pine is doing his best to help Sophie as well as the other guests frightened by rioting outside on the streets of Cairo when he suddenly finds himself unsuspectingly drawn into the dangerous affairs being conducted from afar by the smooth talking Roper.
The lovely and exotic Sophie asks Jonathan to copy some documents for her. Suddenly his whole world changes as he becomes aware they detail extensive arms dealing and involvement at the highest level of British government with Roper, whom she calls the ‘worst man in the world’.
As a former soldier whose father was an undercover agent for the British government, Pine knows that his life has now become extremely complicated.
Sophie’s bill in the hotel in Cairo is being paid by one of the influential Hamid family. They basically own the city, at least according to Pine’s friend in the Kitchen Yousef (Amir El-Masry).
He later finds out they own half of London as well.
Freddie Hamid (David Avery) the son is a playboy and gambler, a danger to himself and to everyone around him when he drinks.
He’s also an integral part of Roper’s criminal network as is the very slippery Lance Corkoran, played oozingly by Tom Hollander.
He is Roper’s all purpose and very dangerous ‘fixer’.
Sophie charges Jonathan with keeping the copy of the papers safe and if anything happens to her, to deliver them to an influential friend she knows he has in the British Embassy Simon Ogilvy (Russell Tovey).
She wants to help expose the criminals behind the deal. However Pine doesn’t wait and gives the papers to Ogilvy to send straight off to London.
The action really starts, when the papers land on the desk of Angela Burr played by Olivia Colman in a stand out performance. She is operating a fringe enforcement agency outside MI6.
A decade earlier she witnessed first hand what the weapons of destruction he supplied did to innocent children at a sports day in Kurdistan and so now she is on a private crusade to bring Roper down.
The feelers go out and a great many people become nervous as Angela becomes increasingly aware there is a traitor at the highest levels of government who is leaking information and endangering her sources.
Tobias Menzies, who has accrued many fans for his role in Outlander, is once again playing a very naughty senior official in the foreign office.
Angela’s trace for the source of her all new information she finds goes all the way back to the Nefertiti hotel in Cairo, where Freddie’s temper has left Sophie with a battered face and Pine embroiled in an ever escalating affair spiralling out of control.
Dangerous as it is, Angela Burr contacts Pine directly from London with a frantic phone call for him to please urgently get Sophie out.
Jonathan coolly takes down her telephone number and pockets it for future reference before racing frantically to Sophie’s room, although he finds it’s far too late to help her any more and is filled with remorse for not being able to save her life.
Her death however will not go unavenged and we are drawn into a world where money doesn’t seemingly count to those who have so much of it.
Fleeing Cairo, Jonathan Pine believes he has started his life again by wiping his past record and taking a job as The Night Manager of a hotel in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps far away from the events he has witnessed.
However fate intervenes and once again he finds himself in the right, or wrong place at the right time dependent on your outlook, as Richard Roper and his entourage arrive early one morning.
Looking after VIP’s is part of Pine’s training and his professionalism prevails after the initial shock and in the course of the evening and through keen observation he notices Roper discarding mobile phone Sim cards in the rubbish, which he is able to retrieve.
The only way now for him to prevail now he knows is by helping to bring Roper down and so he decides to phone Angela Burr and she flies to Switzerland to meet with him.
They talk about what happened to Sophie… and she tells him “…it shames me to the bottom of my soul…”
So Pine is recruited by Angela to infiltrate Roper’s organisation.
She is very pregnant and operating her fringe force outside MI6, which is itself in danger. Like everyone else she feels drawn to Pine and his somewhat isolated manner.
As the action proceeds Pine and Angela become ever isolated themselves from the ‘inner sanctum’ of the Foreign office.
She’s stepping on far too many toes and decides to pull him out when she discovers Roper’s beautiful girlfriend Jed is in love with him.
His commitment however to ensuring the mission is successful never waivers and Pine risks all to stay. He believes he has nothing to lose and therein likes the key to success.
Angela and Pine both have connections no one really knows about or suspects are in place, and this helps how the events will unfold.
This slick sensational completely stunning and surprising series held me completely captive from the first frame to last and I just loved the John Le Carré cameo. The music is so powerful, highlighting all the drama.
Glamorous high-octane television with a thrilling conclusion, The Night Manager is everything you want a television series to be, both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Watch the Trailer
The Night Manager is on Foxtel in Australia.