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Tailor of Panama, The (2001, Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush)

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In contemporary Panama, Londoner Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) lives in exile, plying his trade as a bespoke tailor to the country’s most influential families when he meets Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a lowly MI6 operative exiled by head office for various ‘difficulties’ who is intent on monitoring British interests. Soon Pendel becomes a key component in the his plans and agrees to pay off his debts in return for information.

Using rumours passed on by his wife Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) – who works for the Panamanian government – Pendel divines that the canal is to be sold to the French and Chinese, leaving the allies blocked out. Passing the information on, Osnard watches as his superiors enlist the Pentagon and prepare an invasion. Ready for his restoration, Osnard is unaware of one problem: Pendel, a lifelong fantasist, has made the whole thing up…

There’s no doubt about the hook here – Brosnan playing what le Carré called the ‘anti-Bond’ – but John Boorman’s film has much more to recommend than novelty casting. A literate upmarket romp, it’s the intellectual version of True Lies , tracing the disastrous results of propping up a lie (and once again starring Jamie Lee Curtis as the duped spouse). Boorman, who replaced Tony Scott in the director’s chair, pared down the author’s original script to create a leaner tale which did away with ambiguity: the main characters are fuelled by nothing but venality, yet it’s hard to dislike them as a result. A lot of that is attributable to the supporting cast, with Rush in genuine great form, and David Hayman stealing scenes wholesale as Osnard’s double-dealing boss. Also watch out for a blink-and-miss role for Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and a cameo from Harold Pinter.

The playwright’s legendary silences were much in evidence after the film’s release, when Boorman claimed many of his Irish crew were too busy in Panamanian brothels to do their work properly. At least five marriages collapsed as a result of the allegations, which seems all in a day’s work for Harry Pendel.

production details
Ireland – USA / 109 minutes / 2001

Director: John Boorman
Writers: Andrew Davies, John Boorman, John le Carré (from his own novel),

cast
Pierce Brosnan as Andrew “Andy” Osnard
Geoffrey Rush as Harold “Harry” Pendel
Jamie Lee Curtis as Louisa Pendel
Leonor Varela as Marta
Brendan Gleeson as Michelangelo ” Mickie ” Abraxas
Harold Pinter as Uncle Benny
Catherine McCormack as Francesca Deane
Daniel Radcliffe as Mark Pendel
Lola Boorman as Sarah Pendel
Mark Margolis as Rafi Domingo
Martin Ferrero as Teddy, the Reporter
Dylan Baker as General Dusenbaker
Jonathan Hyde as Cavendish
John Fortune as Maltby
Jon Polito as Ramon Rudd
David Hayman as Luxmore

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