Back in the day I was a le Carré man – did you know his real name is David Cornwell? I didn’t, so I just thought I’d throw that in there. Anyway, I felt ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ was a rattlin’ good tale, so I stuck with him for a while. And for a time I was entranced by him in print – the way he disentangled the suspenseful webs of intrigue he wove into his narrative. But then, I guess, I must have struck an offering that palled and so went off him, moving on to other literary heroes.
But I’m back now, hooked again on le Carré. This time it’s not his tomes. It’s the filmatic adaptations thereof. The first of these, recently, for the big screen, was ‘Bridge of Spies’, with Tom Hanks. Leigh and I caught it on DVD sometime after its cinema release, so when I read the excellent reviews for ‘The Night Manager’, I was soon purchasing it on the same format. Unfortunately we do not have immediate access to non-free-to-air television.
And yes, what a yarn that was too. It appears that the producers of it felt, in their wisdom, to make some changes to JlC’s original as he wrote it way back in the dark ages – 1993. Our version commenced with the Arab Spring in Cairo. There was another change as well – his male Burr became Angela, played by a gloriously pregnant (in real life) Olivia Coleman – one of my favourites after her regular stints in ‘Rev’ and ‘Broadchurch’. She’s an operative in the higher echelons of MI5, or some such, possessing a strong suspicion that above her some of her superiors are not exactly playing the game according to the rules. Our eponymous night manager, played by Tom Hiddlestone, Taylor Swift’s latest squeeze in case you’re interested, is handsomely debonaire. He runs the after hours show at the Egyptian capital’s Nefertiti Hotel. He’s drawn into a web of intrigue via the beautiful Sophie (Aure Atika). Alas, she’s the current squeeze of shady Freddy Hamid (David Avery) who is buying arms from the world’s most evil man, Richard Roper. Here we have Hugh Laurie (‘Fry and Laurie’, ‘House’) having great glee playing a nasty bastard. Sophie has secret documents that the UK government would be incredibly interested in possessing as they implicate connections between Roper, a covert arms dealer, to prominent Britishers. Sophie is desperate and needs the assistance of the night manager, Jonathan Pine, to photocopy them – immediately entangling him in messy conspiracy. And he falls in love/lust with the lustrous lady, despite knowing full well her dangerous connections. She is soon dispatched for her treachery by Roper and his crew of scruple-free thugs. Then there is a hiatus and we rejoin Pine much later at an exclusive alpine resort where Roper and his entourage come to stay.
Now I suspect some of the joy Lawrie had in making this television series was down to his fictional squeeze, played by our own Elizabeth Debinki. His icy blonde and statuesque Jed is stunning in various revealing costumes. She sort of knows that evil is afoot in Roper’s camp, but doesn’t confront it until she too falls for Pine. My, this actress is luminous up there on the screen and no wonder she has two men in raptures over her. It is hard to take one’s eyes of her. I certainly wanted to hit the rewind button when she was on view. And, speaking of camp, ‘Rev’s’ Tom Hollander, plays Lance, one of the uber-crim’s main advisors and the most unsavory of characters. He eventually falls foul of his boss as events reach their crescendo.
‘The Night Manager’ is A-grade stuff, thoroughly engrossing and just made for binge watching. Le Carré’s original here was adapted by David Farr, the writer for ‘Spooks’ – a series I’ve never watched, but intend to once I work my way through ‘The West Wing’ and ‘The Sopranos’ – if life is so long. And as for Ms D, can’t wait to see her in ‘The Kettering Incident’. For the eagle eyed, evidently the great man himself, le Carré, puts in an unacknowledged appearance in ‘The Night Manager’ as a diner.
Perhaps not quite the rip-snorter that the above is, as it turned out, next I was off to the movies to see ‘Our Kind of Traitor’. Based on a 2010 novel by the author and directed by Rebecca White, again dirty business is going on as couple Perry (Ewan McGregor), an academic, together with Gail (Naomie Harris), a barrister, are on holiday in Morocco, being drawn into another web. Here they end up getting involved with charismatic money-launderer Dima – a stellar performance by Stellan Skarsgård – yes, poor pun I know. He’s a right scene stealer in this – and of course there are dodgy connections with the English upper echelons in this too. Trouble is, Dima’s having second thoughts, is about to go whistle-blower and the Russian mafia are hot on his tail. For reasons I didn’t quite get, it seems our couple are the only souls that can help him escape their clutches, with, for them, this quickly taking priority over resurrecting their floundering relationship. Who knows, perhaps they thought a little cat and mouse with the mafia would be of benefit. Soon, again for reasons I didn’t comprehend, Dima becomes Perry’s hero, so much so he is willing to risk life and limb for the turncoat – anything, I guess, to avoid saving his marriage or returning to the stifling world of English academia.
Still, for all its leaps in logic, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ is well worthy of a viewing on some format now its cinema run has concluded. It does pale against the previous adaptations such as ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ and ‘The Constant Gardener’. Five television series and ten films have been made of le Carré’s books – that just leaves around a dozen or more to go. Hopefully, another take on his oeuvre is not too far away.
Trailer for ‘The Night Manager’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-ZcaKdvML8
Trailer for ‘Our Kind of Spy’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5k4FBGtbMs