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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2007
Can't add very much to what other reviewers have said, apart from the strange person who thought Geoffrey Rush was miscast; one could not think of a better Harry Pendle! The whole thing is a darkly comic expose of what becomes those, who indulge in power, corruption and lies. Pierce Brosnan is an even better villain than he was a James Bond and here, he definitely enjoys his finest hour. I agree that Jamie Lee Curtis's role could have been played by just about any half decent actress, but maybe she needed the work and the producer needed a name to help with fund raising, so who really cares. She brings to the role, exactly what it requires, that of a sound, supporting actress. As hinted at before, Geoffrey Rush is simply brilliant as the overtly London Jewish, Tailor of Panama; a man who has dreams, but is hopelessly out of his depth. Despite all his failings you cannot help but love Harry Pendle and wish that his was not a dying breed. The film is tense, sinister and contains many a twist and a turn and it gets better every time I watch it. Highly recommended
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on 10 April 2006
The Tailor of Panama is a wonderful darkly comic thriller. It really is enjoyable. Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush are superbly cast and really drive the film, though the other actors involved have little to do (John Fortune has an enjoyable small part) and Jamie Lee Curtis, I feel, is miscast. The first hour is a slow burner building the characters and the story, then the film steps up several gears and charges to a tense and brilliant ending. It is no slapstick comedy but rather darkly amusing. At the same time it manages to build the tension superbly and have its poingnant moments too. Highly recommended.
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on 21 May 2004
If before the release of John Boorman's adaptation of John le Carre's "Tailor of Panama" (scripted by the novel's author himself) anybody had told me I'd ever see Geoffrey Rush and Pierce Brosnan costarring in the same movie, I'd have snapped "And pigs fly" in response. Apparently I wasn't alone in that feeling, as Mr. Rush himself said much the same thing - although more politely - in an interview broadcast around the time the movie hit the theaters.
Yet, on second thought, who'd have been more appropriate to play James Bond's evil twin than the latest incarnation of Bond himself? Who more appropriate to play the story's multifarious title character than the actor who shone in complex roles like David Helfgott, the Marquis de Sade and Shakespearean theater owner Philip Henslowe?
Going in, I didn't doubt that Geoffrey Rush would be an amazing Harry Pendel - the role of the seemingly pathetic antihero, the little man desperately trying to maintain his dignity in the face of overwhelming odds fits him like a glove; and he does indeed give a bravura, almost Chaplinesque performance. The greater surprise for me was Pierce Brosnan, who takes every single Bond cliche and merrily runs with it in the opposite direction: I confess this took some getting used to, but once I'd gotten into the swing of it, I enormously enjoyed his skill and courage in deconstructing the very image on which his fame is grounded.
Brosnan is Andy Osnard, an MI6 agent sent to Panama as a punishment for having stepped on one toe to many during his last posting. He isn't exactly enthusiastic about the assignment to what he views as a seedy tropical backwater, but his superiors tell him that he's there to safeguard British interests in the wake of the Panama Canal's turnover to the Panamanian government after General Noriega's ouster. Generating leads in preparation for his arrival, Osnard comes across the name of Harry Pendel, a tailor billing himself as one half of "Pendel and Braithwaite," ostensibly an enterprise in the venerable Saville Row tradition, founded by now-deceased Arthur Braithwaite. But the shop's alleged provenance is as big a fabrication as Harry's personal history; for in fact, he learned tailoring in prison, where he was sent for burning down his Uncle Benny (Harold Pinter)'s shop. Discovering this - and the fact that Harry used to be Noriega's tailor and is still very much in favor with the currently reigning clique (the same people already in power under Noriega: "They got Ali Baba but missed the 40 slaves," Harry comments) - Osnard quickly decides that Harry Pendel is the weakest link in the British expat community; the perfect guy to lean on and generate intelligence.
Soon Harry is trapped between the growing pressure exercised by Osnard, his considerable financial needs (which Osnard has promised to remedy) and the admonitions of his faux conscience Uncle Benny never to tell the truth, the only thing that can really hurt him: "Try sincerity, that's a virtue" Uncle Benny advises - "truth is an affliction." And so Harry spins lie after lie; constructing a mesh in which he is ultimately caught together with his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis in one of her best-ever performances) and closest friends Micky Abraxas (an almost unrecognizable Brendan Gleeson) and Marta (Leonor Varela), who have barely survived Noriega's regime - Micky broken in spirit, Marta with a perpetually scarred face. Because Harry's lies about a "silent opposition" network and alleged plans to sell the Panama Canal to the Chinese are good enough to eventually prompt the British *and* American governments to plan a new invasion - and with that prospect looming large over Panama City's infamous "cocaine towers" skyline, the Pendel family, Micky and Marta find themselves in an almost inescapable stranglehold.
Although written by one of the great masters of the spy thriller genre and despite a plot featuring all the trademark elements, "The Tailor of Panama" is *not* a thriller but a farce; as much parody of the genre as mordant satire on the intelligence community (which le Carre knows intimately from personal experience) and sharp criticism of the first world's exploitation of the corrupt power structures of strategically located, cash-strapped countries in the developing world. References to both "Casablanca" and Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana" are deliberate; obviously so in its setting and in the satirical creation of a would-be spy spinning a web of lies just to keep the cash coming in and eventually caught in that web when his lies come true; but also in Harry's reference to Panama as "Casablanca without heroes," and when Osnard, taken to a small plane by a British diplomat, wonders aloud whether this could be "the beginning of a beautiful friendship" ("I think it desperately unlikely," is the icy response).
The movie seems to be particularly unpopular with two groups: Brosnan fans disappointed not to see him play another superhero like James Bond and Remington Steele (and there's little to be said about this; you either buy into his deconstruction of that image or you don't) and Panamanians alienated by their country's portrayal as a corrupt banana republic. I admittedly haven't been to Panama (yet); and I'm sure it has more to offer than corruption, cocaine and the colorful, seedy nightlife so amply displayed here. But Panama's history is a troubled one, and the ongoing role of the Western powers (particularly the U.S.) in its politics is problematic; so I do think le Carre and Boorman have a legitimate point.
In sum, this is a fine production, featuring great performances from its entire cast (also including Catherine McCormack as the career diplomat who becomes Osnard's love - err, sex - interest and Daniel Radcliffe, now of "Harry Potter" fame, as Pendel's son) and spellbinding cinematography by Philippe Rousselot, making Panama's lush, tropical setting come to life in all its vibrant facets. Don't be discouraged by the naysayers ... take a look and judge for yourself!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 May 2015
I was somehow disappointed by this film, even if it was watchable. Considering all the names in the credits (director, producers, screenwriters, actors) I expected a lot - and I got ultimately not so much. Below, more of my impressions, with some LIMITED SPOILERS.

Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a rather unpleasant fellow, is a British intelligence operative assigned to Panama, soon after USA handled the control of the Canal to Panama government. Looking for potential sources of information, he finds a British expatriate named Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), who is a quite successful tailor and has for clients many of Panama's elite, including the President. Pendel is also married to Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis), who works as the assistant to the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority. Sensing a perfect source, Osnard decides to either induce or coerce Pendel into working for him - it will be the beginning of a very interesting relationship... And then the film really begins...

The scenario is based on a book written by John Le Carre (he also co-wrote the scenario and co-produced the film), a renowned and successful author of spy novels - even if I personally never really liked any of his books which I tried to read. However, for "Tailor of Panama" (which I didn't read), Le Carre found inspiration in an older novel, "Our man in Havana" written in 1963 by Graham Greene - a book which I actually read and rather enjoyed. The similarities between those two books are so great, that I really think that if LeCarre didn't have the rights for "Our man in Havana", well, he simply committed a blatant plagiarism - and somehow got away with it...

Not only was the scenario written by a renowned author, but the film was directed and produced by John Boorman in person, the man who made three of my most favorite movies ("Excalibur", "Hell in the Pacific" and "Emerald Forest") as well as the extremely famous "Point Blank" and "Deliverance" (both of which I personally didn't like that much) - and yes, also the incredibly bad "Exorcist II". To my regret however John Boorman didn't make a good film since 1985 - and that one is, sadly, just a confirmation that he mostly ended his glorious period of creation with "Emerald Forest".

Actors of course are great and they all do very well, including Brendan Gleeson, Catherine McCormack (remember her from "Braveheart"?) and Leonor Varela cast in secondary roles. Fans of Harry Potter will be able to catch a glimpse of young Daniel Radcliffe, who just a couple of months later was going to start his schooling at Hogwarts - me, I must admit, I completely missed him and realized that he was in this film only when the credits started to roll...

But all this combined talent failed to produce a really good film. I believe that the biggest mistake made by the producers (who were also in charge of scenario and directing) was the inability to decide what this film should be. It is definitely too dark and not funny enough for a comedy and it is definitely NOT serious enough for a real espionage thriller. Trying to stretch itself between those two extremities this film simply felled apart. This is especially visible in the second half, when the whole plot descends into humungous idiocy. At the end I was actually quite relieved that it is finally over.

One of the things which I really didn't like, was the usual bashing of USA. The film acknowledges that Americans toppled the Noriega regime and reestablished democracy in Panama - at the expense of some of their soldiers dying in the process. It also states loud and clear that just a year earlier USA, without being forced into it in any way, gave away the Canal to Panama government. And yet somehow they are shown as the source of all evil in the world... Sure, whaling on Americans is fun and also safe (unlike so many others they usually don't shoot people who merely mock them) - but it ultimately gets boring, especially when it is so unfair...

Still, most of this film is watchable, if only for the actors. Casting Pierce Brosnan as a mean, nasty and rotten alter ego of James Bond was of course a good joke. Geoffrey Rush is always a pleasure to watch in anything. Jamie Lee Curtis is still very good looking in this film and shows even some skin from time to time. Brendan Gleeson plays an obscene drunk with a great commitment and Catherine McCormack earns definitely her paycheck with some bed action... There are also a couple of good lines - although ultimately not so many.

So bottom line this is a film watchable once, if you don't expect too much from it, mostly for the performance of the three main actors. Watch at your own risk - who knows, maybe you will like it more. Me, I don't think I will keep the DVD.
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on 10 April 2002
Not the typical Brosnan film although perhaps i was expecting him to be in his usual bond swagger role. An excellent performance though from both Brosnan and Rush. It takes a while to get into the plot, which is based around political ideology as part of the British contingencies established in Panama. Overall intriguging, give it time!!!
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2008
I've watched and enjoyed "The Taylor of Panama" several times now. It seems to represent co-producer John Le Carré's homage to Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, and a spoof on the spy genre-film in general (It even includes a humorous pot-shot at "Casablanca.").

Geoffrey Rush turns in a moving performance as Harry Pendel, the tailor, whose fantasy life makes him all too vulnerable for the enticements and blackmail of the seedy would-be, but never-actually-was, James Bond--Andrew Osnard, a burnt-out MI-Sixer, banished to Panama as a punishment for peccadilloes in foreign postings [Pierce Brosnan does an engaging satire on his cinematic Bond aplomb.]. Between the fantasies of Pendel (whose dead but not-so-silent partner is portrayed by Harold Pinter) the situation soon gets out of hand and almost ruins Pendel's marriage (His wife is played by Jamie Lee Curtis.); it destroys his loyal Panamanian friends, and almost starts a war. And while Osnard and most of his colleagues prove to be as corruptible as they are mendacious, the tailor finally comes clean with his wife and mends his marriage.

Behind the satire is one of Le Carré's favorite topics, the willingness of Intelligence services to believe what they want (in this case the presence of a "silent opposition" to the local government), and, in the name of expediency, to spin the most tenuous threads into colorful yarns that they then weave into plausible fabrics and preposterous fabrications. Le Carré therefore seems to be suggesting that the various intelligence services with their vested interests are all accomplished tailors.
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on 24 October 2005
Whether the Tailor of Panama bears any resemblance to the book, I don't know - I find Le Carre's books impenetrable and I really didn't hold out much hope for this movie. In fact, I had it for several months before I got around to watching it. It was so good, I watched it again right away. And again the next day.
Other reviewers have commented on Pierce Brosnan's portrayal of Andy Osnard as anti-Bond - and he does it superbly. It's always wonderful to be surprised by actors. The surprise is not that Brosnan can play a total swine, or a brash anti-hero. The surprise is his ability to create subtleties in a character which could so easily have been a cliche. If you missed the subtleties, watch it again and concentrate on Brosnan. This is just a taste of things to come as Brosnan, freed of the shackles of Bond, flexes his acting muscles. Look forward to more surprises!
Geoffrey Rush is, as always, brilliant and understated as the victim caught up in something which quickly snowballs out of control. The only real criticism I have is that Jamie Lee Curtis is completely wasted - the role of Louisa wasn't worthy of her talents.
Get the movie, get some beer and popcorn and get ready to smile.
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on 30 August 2001
Despite some lacklustre reviews and a poor performance at the box office, John boorman has succeeded in adapting Le Carre's spy novel for the big screen. The tone he has adopted has been deliberately lifted from the pages of the book and it assists the film in becoming one of the more intelligent, intricate thrillers of this year. It comes off as being mature, relaxed and surprisingly coherent given the complex plot. Each actor gives their character a colourful vibrancy and complexity, but it is Rush and Brosnan who really stand out. Their scenes together are positively electric, they really are a joy to watch on screen. I only hope that this missed gem of a film fares better on video and dvd.
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on 20 October 2001
When I got this film I was really looking for another "Thomas Crown Affair". This film is very different; the beginning is a bit slow and the plot/music/camerawork generally don't grab you in the same way. So at first I was a bit disappointed. But given some time, you realise that this film delves deep in a way you don't expect from a spy thriller. I think somewhere behind the ludicrousness of an American invasion on the basis of a complete fabrication lies a cautionary tale about Western arrogance, as well as the exploration of loyalty and guilt on a more personal level. Fantastic performance by Geoffrey Rush. Well worth seeing.
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on 6 September 2012
I've read le Carré's novel and also listened to an unabridged audio book version The Tailor of Panama (Unabridged) so naturally I had already envisioned the characters and locations and wondered how much I'd enjoy seeing a very different version in film. In fact the storytelling and casting are brilliant: Pierce Brosnan is exceptional as the cheerfully amoral, devious and destructive opportunist Osnard, Geoffrey Rush as Harry Pendel is beyond criticism (in my mind's eye, reading the novel, I had seen Bob Hoskins as Harry Pendel but Rush is so good that it seems completely natural that the role is his), John Fortune as the ambassador, Brendan Gleeson as Mickie Abraxas, Jamie Lee Curtis as Louisa Pendel ...these are all inspired choices.

It's probably impossible to render a novel as a film in full, but The Tailor of Panama retains the essence of the novel: the acid wit, taut narrative, and the irresistable formula of a hard, worldly gaze combined with generosity of spirit.

The story and the author's intent are intact, the performances are first class, the locations are authentic, it's brilliantly photographed and looks superb, and it's really hard to understand why this film isn't more widely known or highly regarded.
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