Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for AMC’s “The Little Drummer Girl.”
“The Little Drummer Girl” is a tense spy thriller.
Directed by Park Chan-wook (“The Handmaiden,” “Stoker”), the series stars Florence Pugh as Charlie, a radical actress who gets caught up in a plot to find a Palestinian terrorist and infiltrate his network. Alexander Skarsgard is Gadi Becker, an Israeli intelligence officer sent to recruit Charlie, though he is somewhat reluctant. Pulling the strings and leading the hunt is Israeli spymaster Martin “Marty” Kurtz, played by Michael Shannon.
The AMC miniseries first aired in the United Kingdom on BBC One and consists of six episodes.
Why you should care: It’s based on John Le Carré’s novel of the same name.
Le Carré, the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell, is known for his espionage novels. He served as an intelligence officer himself, working for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the UK.
A number of his novels have been turned into movies, including “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and a 1984 version of “The Little Drummer Girl.”
AMC already brought another of his stories to the small screen with 2016’s “The Night Manager.” The miniseries first aired on the BBC, as well, and starred Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, and Elizabeth Debicki. It won two Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes.
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What’s hot: Florence Pugh stands out.
Skarsgard and Shannon do a phenomenal job playing Israeli spies, but it’s Pugh’s performance as Charlie that stuns viewers.
Pugh, a relative newcomer, captures Charlie’s fierceness in every scene. Charlie is an argumentative girl with strong beliefs and an interest in taking a stand. When she meets Becker, she’s drawn to him romantically, but the offer of becoming something more is just as enticing. Ultimately, Charlie loses herself in her double identity. She excels at manipulation and lying, but that doesn’t exempt her from feeling, and she gets lost in the space between fiction and reality.
The 22-year-old actress stars alongside Chris Pine in “Outlaw King,” and she’ll soon be seen as Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.”
The series is also just a visually beautiful adaptation. Between the concrete bleakness of the Munich Olympic Village to the crystal-clear water and the stunningly white buildings of Naxos, Greece, each location entraps the viewers. Director Chan-wook is a masterful filmmaker who knows how to create intrigue and suspense and pair it with striking visuals.
What’s not: There are so many characters to remember.
There are a ton of players involved in the counterterrorism plot. In addition to Kurtz, Becker, and Charlie, the Israeli spy team includes Litvak (Michael Moshonov), Miss Bach (Clare Holman), Rose (Kate Sumpter), Schwilli (Gennady Fleyscher), Simona Brown (Rachel), and Daniel (Daniel Litman). The group they are after consists of Michel (Amir Khoury) and Anna (Iben Akerlie) just to start. Then there’s Charlie’s group of actor friends.
While numerous characters aren’t necessarily a problem, almost none of the characters are clearly introduced. Many of them even go by a number of different names. With only six episodes to watch, it’s difficult to remember who is who and what they do.
None of that is helped by a plot that moves at a snail’s pace.
The bottom line: It’s a striking spy thriller.
Fans of espionage books or movies are sure to enjoy this tale of intrigue.
There are a number of players in this plot, so it can be a tad confusing if one isn’t paying enough attention to the episodes. With only six episodes to get through, there’s not enough time to fully grasp the role of every character, and it’s better to not even try.
The cast itself is phenomenal, but the series is worth watching for Pugh’s performance alone. Paired with Chan-wook’s directing, this story and visuals will draw you in.
“The Little Drummer Girl” premieres Monday, November 19 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
Watch the trailer below.