After something of a hiatus back in the ‘90s, John Le Carré adaptations are once again regular events. But this one, coming on the heels of the well-received NIGHT MANAGER mini-series, got overlooked. And though it’s not hard to see why, Le Carré-heads, willing to make allowances, may be pleasantly surprised. The solid idea tracks a brash Russian cash manipulator (Stellan Skarsgård) based in Morocco and worried that his dealing days are numbered. Trying to flip a last deal into a one-way ticket out for him & his family as defectors, he’s reeling in the usual super-rich Russian oligarch as leverage along with a high-ranking British politician attached to the same venal line of credit. But the only British agent biting is Damien Lewis, currently on the outs at the Home Office. Skarsgård will have to complete the delicate deal ‘on spec,’ without getting any assurances. (And with no idea that Lewis is working without authority.) The big gimmick (and miscue) on the thing, is the needless addition of an innocent married couple (Naomie Harris & Ewan McGregor), tourists who become go-betweens. It’s a MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH formation, naive couple drawn into deadly international conspiracy. But where Hitchcock sold an unlikely situation by having the couple’s son kidnapped, Le Carré has no equivalent mechanism to help us buy into the scheme. Altruism certainly doesn’t cut it. A shame because, in spite of director Susanna White overloaded artifice (she sure is fond of shooting reflections!), the corrupting influence of Russian money could hardly be more timely, and the cast is all you could wish for. Ms. Harris, in particular, is quite the find, and McGregor, looking considerably older, is suddenly a gripping camera subject. Of course, they might have given Harris & McGregor a kid and had it kidnapped . . . nah.
DOUBLE-BILL: With NIGHT MANAGER doing so well, a mini-series remake of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is in the works for next year.