I want one of your many selves to sleep with me tonight. You can choose which one.
John LeCarré’s master of the espionage novel has always been obsessed with the fluidity of identity. Spies by definition have to take on so many roles for so long that they frequently lose themselves altogether. Titular Manager Johnathon Pine (Tom Hiddleston in some of his best work to date), fortunately was already familiar with having to change skins like a chameleon to please the needs of his guests. He learned the arts of invisibility and deceit long before being recruited by intelligence agent Angela Burr (Olivia Colman of Broadchurch) to take down international arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie best known for House.) As Johnathon uses extreme methods, including deliberately provoking a particularly horrific beating on himself to infiltrate Roper’s organization, he becomes involved with Roper’s mistress Jed as well (who Elizabeth Debicki plays with surprising layers and vulnerability).
The series is gripping, tension laid, and exciting. We benefit from truly gorgeous sets, to the point where the series feels like travel porn but never forget the underlying stakes thanks to great writing and uniformly excellent performances. Tom Hiddleston’s Johnathon Pine can convey more with his eyes and tension in his upper lip than most actors could with pages and pages of dialogue and he has a worthy on screen foil. Hugh Laurie makes Roper affable one minute and repulsive the next. His congenial manners, a thin mask for the cruelty that lies beneath. He’s a man whose glamorous and beautiful lifestyle of champagne and skiing in Zermatt or cordial family gatherings on islands near Mallorca is founded on unbelievable acts of horror and brutality. As one percent, Roper waxes lyrical in interviews about the need for freedom of capital. You realize that this is clearly a villain for the 21st century and it gives The Night Manger a feeling not just of drama but immediacy to our modern day and age.
The Night Manager airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC.
Top photo: Left to right: Olivia Coleman, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Laurie at the The Night Manager Premiere Screening at the Directors Guild of America on April 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA/Bigstock images