Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Night Manager

(UK, 2016)

There have been quite a few good movies made from John le Carré’s novels but they have, of necessity, been trimmed down so they fit in a two-hour time frame. Because they are even denser than your normal novel, much detail has to be cut. But I think the natural format for his books is the mini-series.

I can prove it, too. In 2011 an excellent movie was made from his book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring Gary Oldman as le Carré’s hero, George Smiley. It came in at 127 minutes. Like I say, excellent, the producers have nothing to be ashamed of. But most people don’t know that it was made as a seven-hour mini-series in 1979, starring Alec Guinness, that is simply a masterpiece. Right up there with Lonesome Dove as the best mini-series ever. And no detail was cut. It was all right there on your TV screen.

So here we have another mini-series, this one clocking in at six hours. And it is damn good. Much better than a theatrical movie could ever have been. It is one of John le Carré’s post-Cold War stories, concerning a billionaire arms dealer who, all unknowingly, gets on the wrong side of an ordinary fellow who discovers unplumbed depths within himself. Like the recent Our Kind of Traitor, he is in over his head, but this guy knows exactly what he’s getting into. He is played very well by Tom Hiddleston. Hugh Laurie is excellent as the bad guy. Though I admit whenever I see Laurie in a serious role I get a little cognitive dissonance. We have never watched House, though I have heard it is very good. So I associate the man with his brilliant comic roles in the Blackadder series, and for his hilarious comic sketches with Stephen Fry in A Bit of Fry and Laurie. So it takes me a minute to take him seriously … but I get over it.

If you have grown up on action movies over the last, say, thirty years, you will see something in this movie that you are probably not prepared for, and that is a fistfight where someone actually gets hurt! At one point our hero is given a savage beating … and he is confined to bed for quite a few days. Bruce Willis would have shaken it off and come back fighting, with a tiny little spot of blood on his cheek. Then two men are duking it out. Our hero gets the advantage and starts pounding the other guy, on the ground. He hits his chest over and over and over, as hard as he can hit … and the guy dies! Stone dead! The fact is, you hit someone in the solar plexus hard enough and frequently enough, and he is a goner. The other fact is, in 99.9% of the movie fights you see, both of the fighters would end up in the hospital for a long time, or dead. And you can take that to the bank.