The Tailor of Panama

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director:John Boorman
Writer:John le Carre
Columbia Pictures; R; 120 minutes
Cast:Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis

Spy thriller The Tailor of Panama takes the 007 ethos two steps in a satirical direction. All those women James Bond seduces, for example. Don't they (or their husbands) ever take revenge on the wily superspy? In this movie, they do. British special agent Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) gets sent to Panama for sleeping with the wife of a Spanish minister. Male promiscuity punished!?... this clearly isn't going to be the ordinary espionage movie. The sleazy operative doesn't wait long to rustle up some action. He latches onto a British tailor with bourgeoisie pretensions (Geoffrey Rush). The tailor's beautiful, high-ranking embassy wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) possesses information crucial to the future of the Panama Canal. Osnard pressures Rush's character into stealing government secrets amid an expanding web of sexual and political trickery.

As spy flicks go, The Tailor of Panama offers conventional pleasures. What makes the movie stand out is a refreshing satirical edge. Brosnan's performance as an off-color, second-rate secret agent is delectably unlikable. Intrigue and sexual innuendo ring his collar like sweat. Traditional 007 movies brim with highly suggestive double entendres, and foul-mouth Osnard attempts the same. He only succeeds in blurting out obvious, tawdry similes: “This is dark work—like oral sex—but somebody's got to do it.” Seen in a history-free vacuum, this film might seem spotty. Given the context, The Tailor of Panama offers humorous commentary on Cold War rogues floundering about in the 21st century.

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