In addition to a slate of movies by female directors (and some by dudes, I guess), this year’s Tribeca Film Festival hosted a special advance screening of the first episode of AMC’s The Night Manager, which premieres on AMC tomorrow. The six-episode miniseries stars Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, a “night manager” at a Cairo hotel c. the Arab Spring uprisings who gets pulled into all sorts of spy shenanigans when he crosses paths with Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), a philanthropist-cum-secret arms dealer-cum-worst person in the world-cum-I’m going to stop typing “cum” now.
The talent both in front of and behind the camera is stupendous. All six episodes of The Night Manager are directed by Dutch director Susanne Bier (In a Better World) and co-written by MI-5’s David Farr and master of spy literature John le Carré, who also wrote the book on which The Night Manager is based. Though The Night Manager takes place in the modern era, and the book it’s based on was written in ‘93, there’s a very ’60s, James Bond’s-sophisticated-older-cousin vibe going on. There are fancy clothes, exotic locales, [Major first episode spoilers] a fridged love interest and a distinct “we are British, and therefore we have a moral duty to take care of the affairs of the world—imperialism whaaaaaaa?” vibe. You’re just going to have to roll with that last thing.
In the post-screening Q&A with Bier and Hiddleston, it came out that Olivia Colman’s character, an intelligence agent who’s been trying to pin down Roper’s evil deeds for years, was a man in the book, but was genderswapped to better reflect how spying isn’t the “old boy’s club” it once was. That’s great, and I am all for anything that allows Olivia Colman to act her face off at my face, but The Night Manager still feels very retro. Your mileage may vary. Personally, I dig that style. And we have Elizabeth Debicki, as Richard Roper’s bonezone associate, carrying on her The Man from U.N.C.L.E. tradition of wearing the fuck out of clothes. What’s not to love?
If memory serves, she wears a gosh-darned turtleneck dress at one point and still pulls it off. Literally and figuratively. Tom Hollander is a delight, as per the Tom Hollander usual, playing Roper’s (homosexual, which is mentioned a lot) second-hand man. Outlander’s Tobias Menzies will show up in later eps. (And Russell Tovey was in the pilot, though according to IMDB that’s it for him.) It’s tough to review something that you’ve only seen one-sixth of—Bier was very clear in the Q&A that The Night Manager is essentially an extra-long movie—but after having seen the pilot and first few scenes of the second episode, I’m hooked. Hugh Laurie as a deceptively friendly baddie? Tom Hiddleston as James Bond, basically? It’s sexy, it’s stylish, it’s exciting. And yes, Tom Hiddleston really does wear some tight as fuck pants IRL.