Two not-so-truthful men. One loves telling stories, the other loves playing games.
One a tailor in Panama with a past he'd rather forget, the other a disgraced,
manipulative spy with the MI 6. Both bad guys? Not really. Both good guys? Well...
a little. It's nice Hollywood's finding some gray areas.
And gray cells too. The Tailor Of Panama certainly expects you to have them. Full of suggestions about espionage, conspiracies, underground rebellions, lies, lies and more lies, the shifty storyline requires you to concentrate on the movie, catch the signals when they are relayed, grasp the sudden, seconds-long flashbacks, and make sense of the sometimes inaudible whisper of a dialogue. And if you do, you are rewarded with an interesting though darkly entertaining piece.
Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a spy with the MI 6, is sent to Panama, where he introduces himself to Harry Pendel (Geoffery Rush), a tailor who stitches the clothes of the influential, with a mildly criminal insurance scam past that no one in Panama knows about. The spy requests the tailor to spy for him, and when the tailor refuses, the spy threatens to expose the tailor's jailed past. Am I confusing you?
Hoping to make some money so he can pay off his debts, Harry makes up stories about the sale of the Panama Canal, "the world's biggest trade gateway", to the Americans or the French or the Chinese or the Japs or all of them, and Andrew appears to swallow it all. But when Andrew demands solid proof, and prods Harry to get his wife Louisa (Jaime Lee Curtis), who works for the government, involved, Harry puts a firm foot down. What he does, instead, is pry.
Meanwhile, Andrew, charming, wicked, confident and sexually charged, seduces an employee of the British Embassy, tries but fails to seduce Louisa, and generally fools around.
Harry tells Andrew about the virtually non-existent "silent opposition", information that Andrew dutifully passes on to his superiors. A few of Harry's friends - the tragic Mickie Abraxas who once lead the student rebellion, Harry's disfigured secretary Martha, pioneers of the underground rebellions in the past - are thought to be a part of the "opposition". Things build up and big money begins to change hands. A bunch of lies sparks off a chain reaction of events that Harry has no power to control or to change.
The events that unfold are rather complicated and can be very confusing at times, and following all the intricacies can be quite a problem. But if you do catch the main storyline, you'll probably enjoy the movie anyway. The Tailor Of Panama excels in characterization. Both Harry and Andrew are beautifully etched out and admirably shaped, but it is the strength of the minor characters that delights. The dialogues, when you can catch them, are excellent.
The Tailor Of Panama is a dark story about deception, but it is by no means depressing
or dreary. With strong performances by both Rush and Brosnan (whose role as a
crooked spy is as far away from his Bond roles as it gets), it is an interesting,
if disjointed, movie.