THE NIGHT MANAGER – Víctor Reyes
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
The Night Manager is a six-part TV drama mini-series based on John le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name. Directed by Susanne Bier and co-produced by the BBC and American cable channel AMC, it stars Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier now working as the head concierge at a luxury hotel in Cairo at the height of the Arab Spring popular uprisings. Pine witnesses the brutal murder of an arms dealer’s mistress, and is advised by a friend working for MI6 in Egypt to flee; six months later, Pine is in Switzerland, again working as the head concierge at a luxury hotel in the shadow of the Matterhorn. It is here that Pine encounters Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), a British philanthropist, and his entourage, including his wife Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) and majordomo Corkoran (Tom Hollander). After realizing that Roper has significant ties to the arms dealer back in Egypt, Pine is approached by another MI6 agent, Angela Burr (Olivia Colman), who has been investigating Roper for years. Angela offers Pine a proposition: to infiltrate the inner circle of Roper’s clandestine organization in order to bring him down from the inside, and avenge the Cairo murders.
The Night Manager was the recipient of enormous critical acclaim when it aired in the UK in February 2016, with at least one respected commentator calling it “one of the greatest series of all time,” and several others praising the performances of Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie especially. The score for The Night Manager is by Spanish composer Víctor Reyes, whose scores for earlier projects such as En la Ciudad Sin Límites (2002), Concursante (2007), and Buried (2010) were lauded, and who received a very well-deserved IFMCA Score of the Year nomination for the sensational Grand Piano in 2013.
While clearly not as outlandishly impressive as that score, The Night Manager still has a great deal going for it, not least of which is its superb main theme. A six note motif for strings accompanied by bold, pulsating ostinatos in the cellos and basses, harp glissandi, and all manner of other orchestral and percussive flourishes, it first appears in “The Night Manager Main Titles” as an overall statement of the score’s primary identity as it relates to Jonathan Pine. It occurs regularly thereafter, sometimes in bold statements during cut scenes and transitions in tracks such as “A Proper Villa” and “Private Property,” but more frequently as a recurring motif in the body of a cue, thereby allowing Pine’s musical identity to insinuate itself throughout the core of the score.
There are a couple of interesting instrumental variations too, such as the guitar setting of the theme in “Night Manager Desk,” languid and faintly mysterious, or the downbeat, but attractive string based finale in “Farewell”. Stylistically, the theme reminds me a little of something John Barry might have written for a show of this sort, with a similar sense of style and elegance, although it has to be said that Reyes’s orchestrations are beefier than Barry’s tended to be, and the rhythmic ideas Reyes employs are certainly more aggressive and energetic than the ones the Englishman wrote towards the end of his career.
The rest of the score plays along familiar espionage tropes, and sees Reyes using his orchestra to create a slow-burning sense of tension and general unease, punctuated by moments of violence. Cues like “Suspicious Mind,” “Maybe You Killed Her,” “Mother of Justice,” “Deceit,” and the exciting, agitated “You!” and “No No No!” adopt this style, offering a host of string sustains, dark textures, and synth drones, which are intermittently interrupted by moments of string-led drama or throbbing action. Many of these cues also feature subtle interpolations of the main theme, which often cleverly works its way into the underbelly of a cue as an action ostinato, reminding both viewer and listener of Pine’s dire circumstances and continual jeopardy in the company of Roper, ‘the worst man in the world’.
In addition, the show’s globe-trotting shenanigans allow Reyes the chance to play with some unusual instrumental ideas to capture the various regional settings, and give a musical flavor of the exotic locales. Cues like “All the Great Philanthropists of Our Time Are Businessmen,” “Suspicious Mind,” “Deceit,” and “Back to Cairo,” feature ney flutes and ethnic percussion to capture the rich musical heritage of Egypt, but sets them against dark chords to convey the sense of mounting danger leading up to, and in the aftermath of, the Arab Spring. The occasional flutter of a Spanish guitar in “A Proper Villa” brings the setting of Roper’s opulent home in the Balearic Islands into sharper focus, and there are even guest appearances from accordions and cimbaloms to add to the score’s jet-set worldview.
Other cues of note include the dreamy pianos and weeping strings of “Samira,” the unsettling but pretty “He Never Told Me His Real Name” with its twinkling pianos and Desplat-esque subliminal synth pulses, and the emotional “In the Same Hotel,” which revisits some of the Arabic inflections from earlier in the score, but with a more pronounced intensity.
I’m very pleased to see Víctor Reyes getting some international attention right now, especially on a show which has been so well-reviewed and critically lauded as The Night Manager. Reyes has been around and writing film music since the mid 1990s, and so his ‘breakthough’ into the relative mainstream has been a long time coming, and is long overdue. The Night Manager is a classy contemporary espionage score, which blends modern thriller scoring with a great deal of panache, a strong thematic element, and more than a hint of the exotic. It may be a little too staid for some tastes – the John Barry comparisons are not for nothing – but I very much enjoyed the musical journey through the murky world of international arms dealers, and the shadowy heroes who try to stop them in the name of queen and country.
Buy the Night Manager soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- The Night Manager Main Titles (0:52)
- All the Great Philanthropists of Our Time Are Businessmen (3:14)
- Night Manager Desk (3:04)
- Suspicious Mind (3:00)
- Samira (2:47)
- Maybe You Killed Her (2:39)
- A Proper Villa (3:04)
- Mother of Justice (2:26)
- He Never Told Me His Real Name (2:39)
- Make a Decision (2:49)
- Private Property (3:04)
- I Brought You Some Flowers (2:32)
- Embankment (3:00)
- In the Same Hotel (2:55)
- Deceit (3:58)
- Back to Cairo (2:21)
- You! (3:07)
- No, No, No! (2:49)
- Farewell (2:24)
Running Time: 52 minutes 45 seconds
Silva Screen SILCD-1515 (2016)
Music composed and conducted by Víctor Reyes. Orchestrations by XXX. Recorded and mixed by Paul Golding. Edited by XXX. Album produced by Víctor Reyes.