Quick review: The Little Drummer Girl (TV series)

In this article, I talk about The Little Drummer Girl, an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by John Le Carré, a famous British spy novelist. It follows an actor, Charlie, thrown into the world of spies and deception, that she can’t escape without scarring her mind.

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.

 

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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.

The sweet (and gloomy) feeling of having nothing to lose

Sometimes a dream takes you somewhere you wouldn’t have expected. This is a story of a girl who was deeply moved by her saddest dream ever.

She can do what she wants. Until a few days ago, she was still working full time so that one day, she could retire and spend her final days in peace and harmony. What a dream. But she never wanted that, did she. Looks like life took care of it for her. This very morning she went to her office and handed off her resignation letter. Now she is free of any engagement. She can do everything she ever wanted to do, planning for the future doesn’t mean anything to her anymore.

Right now she is diving in euphoria. She has so many things she wants to do. But so little time. She is sitting on the grass in a downtown park, reading a book she’s been months on since it’s pretty boring but she doesn’t want to give it up until she reaches the end. And she’s expecting him.

[…]

Sitting next to her, he realises her light and cheery attitude is fading away. She didn’t tell him why she was such in a good mood, but he now knows everything she plans to do, and he is not sure if he should support her no questions asked. She starts shivering.

[…]

She said it. It is weird to say it out loud. “It’s only when you say it that it becomes real”. She doesn’t know where she heard that but it doesn’t matter. She starts crying. Her head falls heavy on his shoulder. The pain outweighs the euphoria. It is still there, inside of her, hidden behind a mountain of sadness. The sadness will erode, she knows it. But right now, she has to take it in, feel every part of it. Only after she accepts her inescapable fate will she be able to live her short life to the fullest.

[…]

She opens her eyes, They’re wet from the tears she shed during the night. She doesn’t move. Just lying there, she tries to understand what has just happened, and why this dream felt so real. Her first reaction is to regret she isn’t really living that dream. She wished she could have a good reason to leave her work and do whatever she wants. She knows it is a sad story that would end in a dramatic way, but she’d rather have that than an eventless life of struggling and being tired all the time.

[…]

She takes her breakfast, but it’s difficult. She has to go through the motion. Her livelihood depends on it. But it’s hard. Still she drinks her apple juice and gets ready for the day.

[…]

It’s the middle of the afternoon. She was too tired to go on with her work, so she sat on the living room sofa and started strumming chords on her guitar. The dream is still in her head. She realises it’s the first time a feeling from a dream sticks with her for such a long time, but she doesn’t know how to process it.

[…]

Several days have passed. She is playing her guitar absentmindedly while watching a film. The credits are rolling. She is lying on the sofa with the guitar laid her chest, and her eyes are stuck on the screen.

She sits up, put some stupid but funny show on the TV. Then she opens the laptop on the coffee table and starts writing this piece.