Written by Hannah Dunleavy


Review: The Night Manager

Hugh Laurie, luxury hotels, napalm and nonsense: Hannah Dunleavy reviews the first episode of The Night Manager. CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Sophie (Aure Atika) ponders whether the dog is on a longer-term contract than she is. Photo: Des Willie/The Ink Factory.

So long, tragic plot device: Sophie (Aure Atika) ponders whether the dog is on a longer contract than her. All photos: Des Willie/The Ink Factory.

I may as well say it, right off the bat, I don’t usually watch dramas where people wear linen and are called things like Ogilvey. But there’s been a terrific fanfare about the BBC’s latest Sunday night drama so I thought I ought to take a look. Also, my job.

Much like any BBC thriller, The Night Manager leaves us with more questions than answers. My biggest one being: has Jonathan Pine just got the one set of clothes or does he have a whole wardrobe full of identical blue shirts and sandy trousers?

The first episode was basically an origins story for how Pine (Tom Hiddleston), a seemingly mild-mannered former soldier working as a hotel manager, ended up embroiled in spy stuff with Olivia Colman. In John Le Carré’s original book her character, Angela Burr, was a man, which explains why she’s the only female character not set to ‘seduction’ mode.

(On that note: Both Sophie and Jed had some pretty desperate dialogue: “I miss you so much” made me laugh out loud and the less said the better about “Do you really stay up all night?”)

“Hugh Laurie, who’s clearly having a lot of fun, arrives about 40 minutes in like The Iceman Cometh‘s Hickey with wank jokes.”

Starting off in a Cairo hotel during the Arab Spring, our hero gets involved in some inexplicable espionage with breathy Sophie (Aure Atika), the mistress of Cairo’s biggest wrong-un.

I’ve got to say it right now: both those hotels were frigging gorgeous. In fact, in terms of what it looks like The Night Manager is fantastic. It’s just… well, let’s get back to that plot.

After some sexually tense photocopying, Pine sees the world’s most overblown shopping list. He rushes a copy of this all-bases-covered war machine order to the British Embassy. Massive surprise, this puts ‘his source’ in danger, leading to the two of them having some debate about it, in which she says “If I was brave enough I’d have done it myself”, a statement so circular that thinking about it too much will drive you mad. Never mind that, they’re having sex. The nice sort, with kissing. Even though she’s got a fat lip. What a trooper.

And then it was so long, tragic plot device. We, like Pine, hardly knew you. It’s still a mystery to me what feeing you were supposed to evoke in me or even the lead character.

Programme Name: The Night Manager - Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) and Roper (Hugh Laurie) make an entrance.

Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) and Roper (Hugh Laurie) make an entrance.

Three years later, our hotel manager has done what men in thrillers always do when they have experienced a loss: moved somewhere remote and internalised their feelings. Those brooding devils. Although, on the plus side, we’ve moved to ruddy bloody scenic Switzerland.

Using the time-honoured tick of delayed gratification, Hugh Laurie (who’s clearly having a lot of fun) arrives about 40 minutes in like The Iceman Cometh‘s Hickey with wank jokes. He has a sidekick in the form of Tom Hollander and a girlfriend, Jed (Jed O’Tease, I assume). It’s clearly going to be Pine’s job to ingratiate himself with these three and report back to Angela in the UK, but he’s going to have to get a lot better at spying to be successful. Maybe do a few more things in the office, with the door closed? And do less staring. Just an idea, I’m no expert.

I’m yet undecided about whether I’m sticking with this. It’s simultaneously one of the worst and one of the most enjoyable things I’ve seen for ages. You?

Saves time in the mornings: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) in his capsule wardrobe.

Saves time in the mornings: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) in his capsule wardrobe.

The big questions

This is the only thing I’ve ever seen Russell Tovey in where he hasn’t cried. OK, that’s a statement not a question but I had nowhere else for it.

Why did whoever duffed Sophie up not kill her then?

How much do you reckon it cost to stay in one of those hotels?

Honestly, one set of clothes or dozens the same?

Catch up on The Night Manager on BBC iPlayer here.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.