The Night Manager, Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie

The Night Manager - TX: n/a - Episode: The Night Manager (No. Ep 1) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 9TH FEBRUARY, 2015* Jonathan Pine (TOM HIDDLESTON) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Des Willie

Night moves: Tom Hiddleston as Pine

A classy and compelling John Le Carré adaptation

★★★★½ BBC1, Sunday, 21 February, 9pm

IT’S BEEN 25 years since the last John Le Carré novel made it to the small screen, and that was a now forgotten Thames TV version of A Murder of Quality.

Cinema has taken up the British novelist’s work with gusto since then, with five movies being made, including The Tailor of Panama and the dour but well-received Tinker Tailor Solider Spy in 2011.

This new realisation of The Night Manager, which is said to have cost £20m ($30m), could well be the best of the lot. The Beeb seems to have got just about all the casting and production decisions right.

Tom Hiddleston is terrific away from the big-budget pantomime of the Thor films, playing ex-British soldier Jonathan Pine, who is now working as a hotel night manager, a choice position from which to learn the peccadilloes and secrets of rich clientele.

Programme Name: The Night Manager - TX: n/a - Episode: The Night Manager (No. Ep 1) - Picture Shows: Jed (ELIZABETH DEBICKI), Roper (HUGH LAURIE) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Des Willie

Stinking rich: Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) and Roper (Hugh Laurie)

Hugh Laurie – charm and sadistic evil

This is how he encounters the beautiful Sophie (Aure Atika), mistress of a shady businessman in Egypt, who passes on to Pine documents exposing billionaire philanthropist Richard Roper as a dealer in weapons such as napalm and other illegal ‘toys’.

Roper is played by Hugh Laurie, a million miles here from his buffoonery as Jeeves or the upper-class halfwits of Blackadder. In the trailer, Laurie looks like he might be the weak link in the pivotal role of villain, but he is superb. It’s a flesh-creeping portrayal of charm, intelligence and sadistic evil.

Hiddleston is cool but vulnerable as Pine, who is emboldened to be recruited by British intelligence into spying on Roper after Sophie is attacked for leaking the arms documents to him. [Read more…]

The Night Manager: Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman

The Night Manager : Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) and Roper (Hugh Laurie) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Mitch Jenkins

Watch your back: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) and Roper (Hugh Laurie)

HERE IS an early glimpse of BBC1’s The Night Manager, the first TV adaptation of a John Le Carré novel in 20 years and which stars Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie.

The six-parter focuses on ex-British soldier Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston), who must become a criminal in order to infiltrate the murky nexus between the secret arms trade and the intelligence community.

Quality oozes from this drama (which we’ll preview soon). It’s a co-production with AMC in the States, which made Breaking Bad and Mad Men. In addition to major international stars such as Hiddleston (The Avengers) and Hugh Laurie (House), there is the abundantly watchable Olivia Colman (Broadchurch).

The Night Manager: Corkoran (Tom Hollander), Burr (Olivia Colman), Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), Roper (Hugh Laurie) - (C) The Ink Factory - Photographer: Mitch Jenkins

In the frame: Roper (Hugh Laurie), Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), Burr (Olivia Colman), Corkoran (Tom Hollander)

In addition it is directed by Susanne Bier, who won an Oscar for In a Better World, with a script by David Farr, whose credits include Spooks and Hanna.

Le Carré’s novel was published in 1993 and was one of his most acclaimed.

Hugh Laurie says: ‘I loved The Night Manager when it was published, and for more than 20 years have yearned to see it realised on screen. I am now thrilled and honoured to have the frontest of front-row seats. All the moving parts are finely machined – we just have to not mess it up.’

With this crew, that seems unlikely.

The Night Manager is coming soon! Watch this space…

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — Killer TV No 27

BBC2, 1979

‘I’ve got a story to tell you and it’s all about spies, and if it’s true – and I think it is – you boys are going to need a whole new organisation.’ – Ricki Tarr

Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, George Sewell, Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Hywell Bennett, Ian Bannen, Beryl Reid, Josh Ackland

Identikit: George Smiley, watchful, middle-aged, cuckolded intelligence officer, is asked out of enforced retirement to track down a mole at the heart of the British Secret Intelligence Service.


logosTHE SOMBRE pace makes this dramatisation of John Le Carré’s classic spy story feel a little dated, but the fine cast and multi-layered story definitely draws you in. Humiliated and forced to retire, George Smiley is called back to work because of his outsider status, to dig for a mole at the heart of the British intelligence service. Inspired by Le Carré’s own experience as an intelligence officer, and with a masterclass in understated acting from Guinness – who barely moves or reacts or acts at all – this is a fascinating timepiece of intrigue. Where the 2011 movie was a costume drama, this BBC seven-parter was of the Cold War period, and perfectly captures the drizzly dowdiness of a time when Western and Soviet spies were earnest in this grim tango of loyalty, honour and betrayal. There’s something about this craggy generation of actors playing these oddballs and stuffed shirts that give this series a feel of verisimilitude. Actors just don’t look like this any more. Whether it’s Smiley drying his feet by an electric fire or the gents standing in their three-pieced suits exchanging barbed pleasantries, it looks and feels real. Control sends agent Jim Prideaux to Czechoslovakia to get the name of a high-ranking mole in the Circus, the top echelon of British intelligence. Control gives the top five men, one of whom is the traitor, codenames according to the nursery rhyme – George Smiley’s is Beggar Man. Tinker-Tailor-DVD239Control instructs Jim to simply give him the code name of the ‘maggot’ in the Circus. It’s a trap, and Control and his deputy, Smiley, are forced to retire. Smiley is asked back to investigate without his successors at the Circus knowing what he is up to. The scenes are droll, smart and very wordy, but if you get into its groove it is a rich story, full of trickery, personal agendas and grim loyalties. ‘Every one has a loyalty somewhere,’ says Smiley at one point, but they’re rarely lodged where you expect them. It was a huge critical success, won Baftas, including one for Alec Guinness. Smiley’s People followed in 1982.

Classic episode: In episode four there is a flashback during which Smiley meets Mr Guestman – actually his arch-rival Karla – in 1941, when the British had him in irons in a Delhi jail. It’s a fine scene between Patrick Stewart and Alec Guinness, during which Karla doesn’t say a word, but we sense it is the Soviet agent – facing a firing squad back home – who still outmanoeuvres the Brit trying to turn him.

Theme music: End credit music was Nunc dimittis by Geoffrey Burgon.

Sequel: Smiley’s People, 1982

Watercooler fact: Before filming, Alec Guinness, who based many of his performances on the observation of real people, asked John Le Carré to introduce him to a real spy. The author took him to lunch with Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former Chief of British Intelligence.

Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 – Blu-ray Review

Sherlock Complete Series 1 & 2 Blu-ray
Episodes ★★★★★
Extras ★★★★★

Even on a second and third viewing, these episodes of 21st-century Holmes still fizz with wit and invention.

Seeing them again rams home how good the cast and the adaptations are. Benedict Cumberbatch as the ‘high-functioning sociopath’ is a superb bit of casting, while Martin Freeman’s wonderful comic asides and reactions sum up perfectly the audience’s response to the consulting detective’s outrageous behaviour and capabilities.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scott is creepily off-beat as Moriarty, and it’s good to see Rupert Graves (DI Greg Lestrade) playing something other than his usual cads. As for Una Stubbs, she’s charming as Mrs Hudson.

So how did Holmes fake his death?
Co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who’s also on-screen as Sherlock’s adversary-brother Mycroft) could so easily have got this modern reboot wrong – and it will be interesting to see how Elementary, CBS’s copycat idea in the States, fares in comparison. Instead, they have made the transition seem obvious and inspired at the same time.

My favourite episodes are the two series openers written by Moffat, ‘A Study in Pink’, which set up the whole edgy relationship between Holmes and Watson so cleverly, and ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, with Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. But all six 90-minute stories are hugely enjoyable, and included in this boxset.

And, of course, it offers the chance to forensically scrutinise series two’s cliffhanger to try to work out how Sherlock faked his own death. Did Molly provide the corpse that plunged off the roof? We never get a good look at the body whose pulse is checked by Watson, so is it Holmes? Did Holmes leap and land on the lorry? Moffat says the clues are there, but they’re not conclusive – as far as I can see, anyway.

Sherlock – series 3
The extras included here are first class, including the original pilot episode of ‘A Study in Pink’, which was redone, prompting rumours at the time that the show was a turkey (how wrong were they?). There are also films called ‘Sherlock Uncovered’ and ‘Unlocking Sherlock – The Making of’.

That will have to keep us occupied until series 3 is shown, which is unlikely to be before 2013.

Tinker Taylor Solider Spy
Episodes ★★★★
Extras ★★★
 
Benedict Cumberbatch also appears in the stellar British cast for another modern reboot, this time updating John Le Carré’s spy thriller, which was originally filmed by the Beeb with Alec Guinness in 1979.

Gary Oldman, who recently missed out on the Best Actor Bafta to Jean Dujardin, is superb as George Smiley, the ex-MI6 agent recalled from retirement because his bosses are in a mess – namely, that they have a highly placed Soviet mole among them.

Mark Strong, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy are also among the rather sad bunch trying to believe in what they are doing for Queen and country, and playing some nasty games as they go. My slight preference is for the original two series, which obviously had more time to explore and depict Smiley’s sadness and disillusion. 

The extras include an interview with Le Carré and deleted scenes.

• Also out is the new Blu-ray boxset of series one of The Fades, BBC3’s gory horror about teenager Paul, who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams and the spirits of the dead. Includes some good extras, such as deleted scenes, out-takes and behind-the-scenes footage.

Boxsets and DVD supplied by BBCShop.com

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Tinker, Tailor/Smiley’s People DVD boxset

DVD: ★★★★
Extras: ★★★★

As you’d expect from a famous old spy tale, appearances are deceptive here. Watch the opening episode of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy and it seems very dated at first. The pace is slow, the actors old, and the story and settings dingy.

First shown on the Beeb in 1979 (not 1982 as it states on the cover of this set), this dramatisation of John Le Carré’s story of betrayal is from an era when TV storytelling was less hectic and youth obsessed, and viewers were credited with some patience.

Alec Guinness
By episode two, the jolt of watching a series from 30 years ago passes and the strengths of this acclaimed production will get their hooks into most viewers. There’s the fantastic cast including Sir Alec Guinness in his first major TV role and last great part as traitor hunter George Smiley, along with Ian Richardson, Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett, Beryl Reid, Joss Acland, Siân Phillips and Patrick Stewart, among others.

Once the characters and intricacies of the story are absorbed, the drama becomes tense and compelling, as Smiley, the cuckold and apparently clapped-out old intelligence man, is recalled from retirement to snare the highly-placed double agent working for KGB.

John Le Carré
Gary Oldman has just done a fine job of playing Smiley in this year’s movie version of Tinker, Tailor, but Guinness, who may have been a little on the old side for the role at 65, is still superb behind his large specs. A large chunk of his performance is with his eyes as Smiley is the great listener, carefully weighing the words of the professional liars all around him.

John Le Carré says in one of the excellent special features included here, the BBC documentary The Secret Centre, that he started writing Tinker, Tailor without Smiley in it, but soon realised that the old stager would bring the story alive and give it heart.

Smiley’s People
And Guinness certainly injects the drama with emotional depth despite his placid exterior, with the pain of his adulterous wife and his outmoded decency in the face of treachery always clear in his eyes.

Smiley’s People, which was shown in 1982 and features Smiley’s final confrontation with his brilliant rival Karla, is included in this boxset. Again there’s a tremendous line-up of acting talent on display (see below). Like the smoke-filled restaurants and Lada cars on show here, many of these characterful actors are no longer around, but this boxset showcases their wonderful performances in two rich dramas.

Alec Guinness George Smiley, Michael Jayston Peter Guillam, Anthony Bate Oliver Lacon, Bernard Hepton Toby Esterhase, Ian Richardson Bill Haydon, Ian Bannen Jim Prideaux, Hywel Bennett Ricki Tarr, Michael Aldridge Percy Alleline, Terence Rigby Roy Bland, Alexander Knox Control, George Sewell Mendel, Beryl Reid Connie Sachs, Joss Ackland Jerry Westerby, Siân Phillips Ann Smiley, Nigel Stock Roddy Martindale, Patrick Stewart Karla, John Standing Sam Collins, Thorley Walters Tufty Thessinger, Mandy Cuthbert Molly Purcell, Warren Clarke Alwyn, Susan Kodicek Irina.   
Smiley’s People: with Barry Foster Sir Saul Enderby, Michael Lonsdale Anton Grigoriev, Bill Paterson Lauder Strickland, Mario Adorf Claus Kretschmar, Curd Jürgens General Vladimir, Vladek Sheybal Otto Leipzig, Rosalie Crutchley Mother Felicity, Maureen Lipman Stella Craven, Dudley Sutton Oleg Kirov, Michael Gough Mikhel, Michael Elphick Detective Chief Superintendent  

Boxset supplied by BBCShop.com

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