Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Night Manager

Mm, so sleek. Le Carre has been made all Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli - no more the real phlegm and soggy broccoli of the school dinner atmosphere of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. There are diamonds, martinis, fast cars, expensive watches, and an opening titles sequence straight out of Shirley Bassey. In fact, I think Tom Hiddleston is probably using this as his casting reel to be the next 007, once he gets a little craggier. He's certainly got the charm for it. Although his charm had well and truly tipped over into psychopath territory by the middle of the second episode.

The Night Manager's M is a very pregnant Olivia Colman as Angela Burr, with an unidentifiable northern accent and no budget for central heating. (Here, in the cold, there is real phlegm.) I am not sure who she is working for. She seems to be half of a two-person team who occasionally have meetings at MI6 in Vauxhall or the Foreign Office in Whitehall, but otherwise are rogue roamers. Mrs Burr can fly to Zermatt in an instant, despite being in her third trimester, and is able to eavesdrop on conversations from Cairo to Mallorca.

There is no Q. Hiddleston, as Jonathan Pine, has to raid dustbins to retrieve Sim cards, and break into his own safe. But Pine's army training means he's a dab hand at breaking a man's arm, ejecting someone from a snooker room, or tying an electrical extension lead round their neck. But he'll also pour your champagne perfectly, seduce you Bond-style in a flash, relocate you to the back of rural beyond, and never seems to sleep.

The baddie is Hugh Laurie, who is charming too, but with a dash of snake poison just below the surface. He is Richard Roper, a wealthy philanthropist giving speeches in front of a Unicef flag while dealing arms to the evil warlords behind it. He is calm, affable, terribly reasonable - but the terrifying is unmistakably there. It will surface, and soon. For now, Pine is lying in Roper's Mallorcan villa with two black eyes and a broken nose. He is a mystery to them. Is he mussel man or muscle man? We're not sure how they are going to find out. They've done the Google side of things, unearthing his CV and Burr's false trail of identity for him. But they aren't yet convinced. I suspect there may be a waterboard in the wardrobe.

Tom Hollander, Roper's sidekick Corcoran, is more openly threatening. But even he is jolly nice about it. Affable Rev, laced with strychnine. "I will hood you and hang you up by those lovely ankles until the truth falls out of you by gravity. Toodleoo."

Maadi, Cairo

What a difference between the luxurious hotels where the Night Manager works and the places we have stayed. It must be because we aren't multi-billionaires or illegal arms dealers and don't tend to arrive places by luxury yacht or helicopter. Our abode in Maadi, Cairo wasn't grotty so much as basic. A skyscraper hotel of brown glass, with an empty swimming pool on the roof and slightly creaky plumbing. But it did have a view of the Pyramids, glimpsed across the Nile behind the minarets of the mosque next door. Loudspeakers perched on the minarets woke us daily at four with the morning call to prayer.

Empty rooftop pool

View of the Pyramids and River Nile

Or you could say that the Pyramids had a view of our hotel

Cairo seemed even busier and crazier than the chaotic Cairo in the midst of the Arab Spring depicted in The Night Manager. We didn't dare cross a road in our attempt to find somewhere for dinner. The traffic was lethal. We ate pizza in a restaurant down the street, surrounded by potted palms and men smoking hookah pipes.
More The Night Manager's style

And then the action moves to Switzerland. Not being a skier, the only time I have been to Zermatt, I was 15 and staying in a Eurocamp tent with my family somewhere near Susten. The train from Visp was more rickety than the streamlined red SBB models ridden by Pine, and for some reason I have in my head that it was powered by steam. Once there, the shops were full of tat, and my mum got locked in a public loo while my brother made up a jingle for Peugeot cars. Which he pronounced Pee-go. But I do remember the beautiful Matterhorn; a wisp of cloud clutching at its pinnacle that would never quite leave.

Zermatt tourist tat

My family munching at the Matterhorn

80s glamping in Susten

Only in Devon has our holiday accommodation looked similar. My parents had quite the knack for finding dodgy cottage rentals. No TripAdvisor then, you see. Farmhouses with bad carpets, stubborn chickens in the garden refusing to lay eggs, and Alan Wells winning the 100 metre gold at the Moscow Olympics on a fuzzy black and white television screen. Here it was my brother's turn to get locked in the toilet.

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