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A seemingly cold but very passionate policewoman goes head to head with a seemingly passionate father who is in fact a cold serialist in this procedural out of Belfast. The only thing they share is their common complexity.
An Englishman, Jonathan Pine (played by Tom Hiddleston), is working as the night manager of a Cairo hotel. He gets involved with a local woman who is the girlfriend of a local gangster. Through her relationship with the gangster she has acquired information linking illegal international arms sales with Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), an English billionaire. She is soon found dead, murdered due to her having this information. Fearing for his own life, Pine flees, ending up working at a remote hotel in Switzerland. Four years pass, and then Roper visits the Swiss hotel. This rekindles Pines thirst for revenge, and he is enlisted by British Intelligence to spy on Roper. What follows is a very dangerous game of intrigue and deception.Written by
Let's start with the title sequence...the best I've ever seen for any film or TV show. Perfectly encapsulating the background plot of what follows, items of luxury effortlessly morph into sinister weapons culminating in a crystal chandelier mushrooming into an atomic bomb exploding.
What follows certainly matches it in terms of production values, acting skill and directorial quality. I've not read the John LeCarre parent novel, but right from the start was gripped by this involving tale of skulduggery in high places revolving around the at face value charismatic billionaire humanitarian Richard Roper, played by Hugh Laurie, who in reality is a cynical criminal mastermind supplying arms to the highest foreign bidder, with a luxurious lifestyle and entourage in tow.
Out to get him is a determined, very pregnant, middle-ranking British Intelligence agent, played by Olivia Colman, operating with a skeleton staff in a tiny, unheated London office but who gets a break in her mission when ex-Army man Jonathon Pine, played by Tom Hiddleston, crosses paths with Roper when the latter stays at the luxury hotel in Cairo where he's the night manager, right at the time of the Egyptian revolution. A chance encounter with a beautiful woman working for one of Roper's shady local contacts sees him drawn into a complicated plot orchestrated by Colman, principally involving another beautiful woman with whom Pine gets romantically entwined, designed to bring down Roper and his whole organisation. Over six exciting episodes, the drama plays out over a variety of locations including Egypt, London, Switzerland, Spain, Paris and present-day, war-torn Syria, the latter of course adding up-to-the-minute topicality to the tale.
The locations are absolutely stunning, from the high-end luxury which Roper enjoys in top restaurants, holiday villas, private jets and naturally only the best hotels, contrasted with the sparse, cold office of Colman and her team to the recreation of a refugee shanty-town in Syria. By a brilliantly conceived fake kidnap plot concerning Roper's son, Pine inveigles himself into Roper's network to become his right-hand man and so reach the position where he can execute Colman's plan to take him down.
Of course for such a complicated plot to work, the long arm of coincidence has to come into play for which the viewer has to suspend some disbelief as the handsome, debonair Pine gets two women inextricably linked with big-time criminals to fall for him (and vice- versa), plus he has a series of skin-of-his-teeth near-misses as his cover threatens to be blown, but all's fair in love and the dirty-war, so best just to go along with the ride as the story arcs to its nail-biting finish. There's also one delightful comic moment for fans of Hugh Laurie in "Black Adder" just as he meets his downfall.
Hiddleston surely marks himself out as a potential candidate to replace Daniel Craig as 007 with an assured, credible performance as the inside man moving in high places but quite prepared to ruthlessly maim and murder to maintain his position. Hugh Laurie too is excellent as the suave but ruthless Roper, believing right up to the end that his status and riches can protect him from harm while Olivia Colman is characteristically convincing as Roper's down-to-earth, determined pursuer, the Davina to Roper's Goliath. I was less impressed however with the performance of Elizabeth Debecki as Roper's gamine, eye-candy young girl-friend, although her part isn't helped by having to walk around mostly in a state of undress at Roper's beck and call.
Still, this was a stylish, high-end spy-yarn enriched by strong characterisation, excellent acting and slick direction which certainly made me glad I checked in for my six-hour stay.
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