A dapper figure in an immaculate suit steps out of a sports car and makes his way across a courtyard while the beautiful seaside vistas of Majorca, Spain provides stunning scenery. Is that you 007? No, it’s Hiddleston, Tom Hiddleston. He’s playing Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager, a spy thriller adapted from the acclaimed novel of the same name by author, John le Carré.
The case for Hiddleston as Bond is stated in this brilliant series that tells the story of Pine, a former British soldier turned hotel manager who is recruited by British intelligence operative (Olivia Coleman) to investigate whether a businessman/philanthropist (Hugh Laurie) is an arms dealer.
The role of Bond is currently up for grabs because Daniel Craig is still deciding whether he wants to return. The actor was rumoured to have been offered $200 million to return for 2 more films in the series. Craig’s comments while doing an interview to promote Spectre indicated he wasn’t interested in the role anymore when he said: “I'd rather break this glass and slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all”.
The producers of the Bond franchise scrambled to defend the comments by highlighting Craig’s dark sense of humour, but it turns out they were already looking for their new 007. On several occasions, Hiddleston has been spotted meeting with producers and directors who work on the Bond films.
Currently, UK betting agencies have Hiddleston down as an 8/1 chance of playing Bond while Tom Hardy is currently the frontrunner at 4/1. No matter what the outcome, it’s clear, the folks behind Bond saw The Night Manager and called Hiddleston. And for a very good reason – he’s qualified for the job based on this series.
But don’t go into The Night Manager expecting an Aston Martin shooting rockets. Ian Fleming created Bond as a masculine fantasy that indulged in sex, violence, drinking, cars and gadgets. Le Carré is credited as one of the authors whose stories got close to the reality of spycraft by focusing less on gizmos and more on how spies hide in plain sight by not drawing any attention to themselves. Fleming’s creation wears a tuxedo; le Carré’s a plain t-shirt.
The Night Manager plays a little in both worlds under the direction of Suzanne Bier (who makes her own case for the Bond gig) and writer David Farr. The series has the glamour of Bond but the tension is found in the grunt work Pine does going undercover. Pine learns to pass on information to operatives by ordering ice cream, sleight of hand becomes essential to sneaking documents around and the closest he gets to a gadget is a set of wire cutters.
Throughout it all, Hiddleston gives a composed performance that shows a knack for acting cool under pressure. There’s complexities to the performance as the story escalates but Hiddleston handles himself with the class of a 00-agent. Plus the modern expectations of Bond have become accepting of a few frayed edges, as exemplified by the Craig era of films.
Hiddleston not only acts the part – he looks the part. Before he says one line of dialogue he cuts the perfect frame as the man who could be Bond. Bier knows her leading man has gravitas and allows the camera to move low and slow with him for the maximum amount of cool. It adds up when you throw in the chemistry Hiddleston has with Elizabeth Debicki and things start getting sexy.
Hiddleston can also match wits with Laurie’s maniacal character, highlighting the importance of having a villain who challenges the spy protagonist both physically and mentally. The Night Manager has its action-packed moments but the paranoia and second guessing at play as minds go to war makes it thrilling on another level.
If you can’t wait any longer to get that next Bond fix, The Night Manager is the place to go. It’s a series that manages to outwit 007 while borrowing heavily from the spy franchise’s style in a way that’s nearly undisguisable from the real thing. Plus you get bragging rights if Hiddleston gets the gig.
The Night Manager airs Wednesdays at 8:30pm on SBS. After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.
Watch the first episode right here: