The Little Drummer Girl is an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by John Le Carré, a famous British spy novelist. Some recent adaptations of his works include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Film) and The Night Manager (TV series), both of which are very well crafted and brilliantly adapted. But something sets The Little Drummer Girl apart: the very subject of the story is the spies themselves. The mission is second to the psychology of the protagonists and what they have to go through to complete the mission¹.
Charlie is a British actor. An more than that, she is the opportunity-of-a-lifetime for the Mossad to get to a Palestinian terrorist assassinating Israelis or “Zionists” across Europe. To get into the role, she has to become the life partner of the terrorist’s brother, without ever meeting him. She has to be so convincing in the role so that she survives all the obstacles to reach into the inner circle of the terrorist cell. She becomes so ingrained by the fiction that she has a hard time not falling into her own trap and becoming the enemy. Even the Mossad operatives can’t really tell whether she’s turning or remains loyal.
Directed by Park Chan-Wook, it’s superbly executed. I was particularly glad that he wasn’t showing off like he used to in his Korean productions². This time, he chose to be intimate with the characters, get very close to them, to capture all their emotions, to build empathy and make us feel like we’re in the story. Some POVs of Charlie are also perfectly timed, when she is talking to some influential characters, showing that they’re piercing into her shell. All those direction choices serve the story and the character without showing off.
So, I really loved that TV series. I really think it’s one of the best spy stories directed in recent years, on par with The Americans. I love a show that takes time to introduce their characters and build arcs so meaningful that you want to stay close to them until the end. I am so hooked now that I want to read the book, so I don’t have to leave them just yet.
The Little Drummer Girl is a 6-part TV series available on AMC/BBC One.
¹ The mission isn’t really special in the spy genre and goes pretty smoothly, considering how it affects the characters.
² I really love most of what he’s done in Korea, but to be honest, his art direction is often way over the top and unnecessary.