If election season has left you shaken and stirred, and you’re in need of that special type of escapism that only international espionage can provide, now is the time to plant yourself on the couch and partake in an extended James Bond marathon.
Earlier this month, Amazon Prime made 20 pre-Daniel Craig Bond films available for streaming. They run from classic Connery (“From Russia with Love,” “Goldfinger”) into the Brosnan era (“Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The World is Not Enough”), with plenty of Moore (“Moonraker,” “Octopussy”) and Dalton ( “The Living Daylights,” “Licence to Kill”) in between.
But maybe Bond’s exploits feel a little retrograde at this point. Maybe you’re searching for a thriller with more contemporary currency than what Ian Fleming’s creation has to offer. If so, Amazon subscribers also can access “The Night Manager,” an excellent six-episode BBC (and later AMC) series adapted from the 1993 book by that other great English spy novelist, John le Carré.
Originally set during the first Gulf War, le Carré’s novel has been updated to present day. The series begins with British-soldier-turned-hotel manager Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) working in a luxury Cairo hotel on the eve of the Egyptian revolution. An unexpected interaction with a guest puts Pine in contact with Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), a British business/philanthropist who also happens to sell napalm and nerve gas. Pine shares this information with an embassy friend, and he’s later recruited by MI6 agent Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) to infiltrate Roper’s inner circle.
Directed by Oscar-nominated Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (“After the Wedding”) with an artist’s eye, “The Night Manager” makes the most of its jet-setting locations, taking viewers from Cairo to Zermatt, Switzerland to Devon, England, and Majorca, Spain, within the first two episodes.
But the real joy of the series lies in cagey interactions between Hiddleston’s and Laurie’s characters. Hiddleston, perhaps best known to American audiences for playing the villain Loki in Marvel comic-book films, imbues the guarded, watchful Pine with a damaged nobility and a zeal for violent retribution. Laurie, who spent close to a decade starring as a cranky-but-charismatic doctor on the Fox TV show “House,” masks his character’s cruelty with a warm, paternalistic charm.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “A Most Wanted Man,” the most recent films based on le Carré novels, were gripping but also could feel compressed or overly dense. As a series, “The Night Manager” has the space to stretch and tease its shadowy suspense. The results are blood tingling.
The Night Manager
Streaming on Amazon