Directed by John Boorman
Written by Andrew Davies and John le Carre and John Boorman, from a novel by le Carre
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Radcliffe
Pierce Brosnan’s stint as James Bond, along with his good looks, has obscured the fact that he really is a terrific actor.And this is clearly on display in The Tailor of Panama.
Brosnan plays Andy Osnard, a British secret agent who has been reassigned to Panama as punishment.* It’s a dead-end assignment, and Osnard wants more than that. He befriends Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), a tailor and discovers that Pendel has been lying about his background: Pendel was a scam artist who served time. He’s also a terrible businessman, deeply in debt despite making suits for the wealthiest members of Panama’s elite. Osnard offers him a chance: earn money by passing on what he hears.
But Pendel doesn’t hear much of interest. Osnard wants something for his cash, so Pendel begins to invent “secrets” to earn his keep. Meanwhile, Osnard has his eye on Pendel’s wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). It’s a movie about cheats and double crosses, as the stakes escalate.
Brosnan plays to all his strengths: his charm, but also portraying a character who’s only out for himself. Rush is, as usual, quite good, too.
There’s some interesting other names in the cast. Daniel Radcliffe, pre-Harry Potter, has a small role as Pendel’s son, and playwright Harold Pinter appears as Pendel’s former partner.
Director John Boorman has a long list of notable films, including Deliverance, Excalabur, Zarzoz, and Hope and Glory while screenwriter John La Carre was the master of the spy novel.
The movie didn’t set any box office records, but if was ultimately a strong and twisty entry in the spy genre.
*It implies he had an affair with an ambassador’s wife, so there is some of Bond in him.