Former British soldier Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is recruited by Burr (Olivia Colman), an intelligence operative. He is tasked to navigate Whitehall and Washington, D.C. where there is an alliance between the intelligence community and the secret arms trade. He must infiltrate the inner circle of arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie), Roper's girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), and associate Corcoran (Tom Hollander).
The Night Manager is a new show directed by acclaimed Danish helmer Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, In a Better World) and starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander and Elizabeth Debicki. The show is based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré.
Based on the 1993 novel by John le Carré, 'The Night Manager' is a BBC One production that aired on AMC here in the United States. This Blu-ray release is labeled as 'The Uncensored Edition', meaning it contains the episodes as they originally aired on the BBC. I didn't watch the series when it aired on AMC, but I can only assume the differences fall primarily in the realm of nudity, as there's a bit here and there in these episodes.
I never read the novel upon which this miniseries is based, so I can't comment on all the changes that have been made, but one that has most certainly occurred is the time during which the events are set, as le Carré's novel came out in the early 90s and the opening scenes of this TV version take place during the revolution in Egypt in 2011. I'm assuming the major events of the original story still take place here, but they've just been updated for a modern-day setting.
The miniseries stars Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Price, a night manager at a high-end hotel in Cairo, who – in the opening episode of this six-installment run – is given some documents by the mistress of a wealthy Egyptian indicating an impending weapons purchase from Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), a super-rich industrialist who has earned the nickname "the worst man in the world" from those behind-the-scenes who know how he makes most of his money. Price turns over the documents to British intelligence, which results in Roper getting tipped off and the woman being killed.
The story then picks up a year later, with Price no longer in Cairo and now a night manager at a hotel in the Swiss Alps. By pure chance, Roper and his entourage happen to pay a visit to the hotel, rekindling all of Price's hatred toward the notorious arms dealer. It's at this point in the story that intelligence operative Angela Burr (Olivia Coleman, who most will recognize from her role on the BBC series 'Broadchurch') steps in to try and recruit Price to work undercover and try to infiltrate Roper's organization. Burr has her own issues to deal with back in London, however, when it becomes known that some within MI6 are not only supporting Roper, but leaking him information (it was MI6 who tipped him off back in Cairo).
Without giving too much of the remainder of the series away, Price does manage to get in Roper's good graces, although not without making things very risky for himself when he starts falling for Roper's girlfriend, Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), who has her own grudges against Roper. Things get even more dangerous for Price when Angela tries to remove him as an operative and Price insists on staying – now pretty much working undercover without any outside support.
With Hiddleston and Laurie in the leads, you can probably already guess that 'The Night Manger' is a well-acted affair. It's also one that takes time to allow both the story and the characters involved in it to unfold. Like most of le Carré's spy tales, this one isn't as much about the action (of which there's actually very little), but about all the deception and political intrigue that takes place. It's not without a few story clichés, like our hero getting involved with the bad guy's girl or the good guys having a mole (or two...or three) in their midst, but it's certainly worth a look on Blu-ray and only falls short of a recommendation because of Sony's decision to release bare-bones discs.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Night Manger' checks in on Blu-ray in the same kind of standard keepcase Sony uses for most of their releases – the type with a plastic flap on the side that must be flipped open before you can open the case. The keepcase contains two 50GB discs, along with an insert containing a code for an UltraViolet copy of the miniseries on one side and an advertisement for the Sony Rewards program on the flip side (although this release doesn't seem eligible for points, so don't get too excited). The flip side of the keepcase's slick (seen from inside the box) contains a short synopsis of all six episodes. There are no front-loaded trailers on either disc, whose main menu consists of a montage of footage from the episodes, with menu selections running horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are Region A locked.
'The Night Manager' was shot digitally and is presented here in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is one of those frustrating presentations that almost certainly is a result of the digital equipment used (I wasn't able to find any info online, but I suspect the Arri Alexa is to blame), as some outdoor shots are crystal clear and full of bright colors, but darker indoor shots are soft looking and often contain noticeable background noise.
As a result, the level of detail also varies from shot to shot. The most impressive scenes take place at the villa that Richard Roper owns – particularly the exterior scenes, which look quite impressive. As noted, the indoor scenes are not so great looking, particularly in the first episode of the series, which has a huge chunk of footage shot in a dimly lit hotel. Black levels that are only about average for a home video release don't help matters, although thankfully there's not too much crush to speak of overall.
Sony usually does a really good job with their transfers of TV material – which, again, leads me to believe the issues here come from the source. This is far from a horrible presentation – it's just an uneven one, with a mixture of great-looking and average-looking shots.
The only available track for each episode is in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and proves to be fairly serviceable, considering big chunks of these episodes are dialogue-heavy and action-light. While I never quite felt immersed in proceedings from an aural standpoint, the soundtrack does make good use of the surrounds – enhancing the musical soundtrack and providing some ambient noises that – while far from overwhelming – are clear and distinct enough to sound quite lifelike (there's a buzz from a mosquito in the third episode that sounded so real I actually thought for a second one was in the room).
Dialogue is exclusively front and center, and comes across crisp and distinct, and never with a hint of muddiness or other issues. Overall, while these aren't tracks that 'wow' by any means, they're competent and serve the source material well. I've got no real complaints.
Subtitles are available for each episode in English SDH, English, and French.
There are no bonus materials whatsoever on this bare-bones release. Not even trailers or promotional ads. Richard Roper must be responsible.
Like many of John le Carré's adaptations, 'The Night Manager' is a slow burn, but worthwhile viewing for the intricate storytelling and the fine performances from stars Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. However, the lack of bonus materials along with the uneven video quality make this release something worth watching, but not quite worth a purchase. I'm giving this one a 'worth a look' recommendation.