The Emmy judges who will soon be deciding the nominees for Best Limited Series already had a difficult road ahead of them. The second seasons of “Fargo” and “American Crime” have already proven to be nearly as incredible as the first, as has magnificent debut of FX’s “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” Now, sure to complicate the matter still further, is AMC’s adaptation of another master of the mini-series, John Le Carre’s “The Night Manager”
Adapter with the author’s permission, this series begins with Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston, demonstrating that he can own the screen without having to chew the scenery) is managing a hotel in Cairo during the revolution that leads to the overthrowing of Mubarak. After an encounter with an Arab woman who has him copy a manifest of weapons, Pine finds himself turning over the manifest to the Embassy, which leads him to his first encounter with a woman named Burr (Olivia Coleman, continuing to illustrate why she is the most wonderful of British actresses) at MI-6. The determination to let this information slide under the radar leads to the woman’s death and Pine’s to leave his job.
Several months later, in Switzerland, Pine is managing a hotel when he encounters, perhaps by coincidence, Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie, finally getting a chance to use his English accent for good), the international arms dealer whose name was on the manifest, along with his entourage, including his mistress, Jed (Elizabeth Dobicki). Pine contacts Burr, reveals his military background, and his utter determination to get revenge. Burr doesn’t have to work that hard to get him in as a double agent. For several months he establishes a dual identity as a hoodlum in lower England, and then comes along in the most sinister of opportunities to get in with Roper’s good side. No one trusts him, especially Roper’s second in command, and there is an almost certainty that Pine will not get out alive.
This may be one of AMC’s first real masterpieces since “Breaking Bad” wrapped up. It is certainly one of the more glorious productions from a LeCarre work since either the mini-series or film adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. There are superb performances all around, but by far the greatest standout so far is Laurie, using the ambiguity that was always at the center of Gregory House, and turning it into one of the more intriguing portrayals TV has seen in awhile. Roper may be a villain or he may just be the typical industrialist. He certainly shows levels of compassion – particularly in scenes with his young son – that the viewer is utterly unaccustomed to seeing of his work. This could very will be the performance that gets him the Emmy he was denied all these years – assuming, of course, he gets around such fine portrayals as the ones we’ve already seen Bokeem Woodbine, John Travolta and Timothy Hutton give this year.
It’s unclear just how this series will end, even for those who’ve already read the book. (It has a different ending, approved by Le Carre.) But “The Night Manager” clearly demonstrates that AMC is prepared to delve back into the world of limited series that once led to glory early on. I can’t wait to see more.
My rating: 4.5 STARS.