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Friday, February 23, 2024


"The Tailor of Panama" is your typical John Le Carre story of spies and politicos of all — and ever-changing — stripes, an international cast of characters who'll take appearances and personal gain over ethics and accountability any day. It's been transported from the printed page to the big screen with some deft touches, and if you like the genre, deadly serious business with an aura of the absurd, you'll almost certainly enjoy the film.
For starters, director, producer and screenwriter John Boorman cast the actor currently wearing the mantle of James Bond — Pierce Brosnan — as lead character Andy Osnard, a 007 with no redeeming qualities. Osnard, in fact, has just been posted to Panama for a last chance at redeeming himself before being drummed out of Her Majesty's Service. This is Panama at the time of the transfer of the canal from U.S. to Panamanian control, an era ripe for espionage and sabotage in the eyes of the paranoid Western powers.
Osnard wastes no time picking the brain of a resident British spy, one Harry Pendel, to all outward appearances a mild-mannered British tailor whose client list goes all the way up to Panama's president (who came to power with the downfall of the nasty Noriega, we are repeatedly informed). Pendel, played by Geoffrey Rush, needs money and Osnard needs a plot and each finds salvation, such as it is, in the other.
The supporting cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis as the tailor's politically well-connected Panamanian-American wife, who sends out mixed messages and tends to misread those that come her way. Other key characters are Pendel's receptionist, a former freedom fighter, and another hero of the anti-Noriega movement who admits in a semi-sober moment that the torture he endured in prison quenched his revolutionary fervor forever.
In contrast to the James Bond films, "The Tailor of Panama" offers its hero no high-tech toys or action scenes. In fact, it offers no hero — Osnard is about as anti-hero as you can get, and by the end, for better or worse, everyone seems to have gotten pretty much what they deserve, leaving relatively few casualties (by today's film standards) in their wake. Believable dialogue and a brooding film-noire ambience contribute to the overall effect.
"The Tailor of Panama" is rated R. It's playing at Market Square East.

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