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The Tailor of Panama (2001)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  4 May 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 22,757 users   Metascore: 66/100
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A tailor living in Panama reluctantly becomes a spy for a British agent.



(novel), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Tailor of Panama (2001)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harold Pinter ...
Uncle Benny
Francesca Deane
Lola Boorman ...
Sarah Pendel
Rafi Domingo
Teddy, the Reporter
Edgardo Molino ...


John LeCarre's spy thriller is brought to the big screen. A British spy is banished to Panama after having an affair with an ambassador's mistress. Once there he makes connection with a local tailor with a nefarious past and connections to all of the top political and gangster figures in Panama. The tailor also has a wife, who works for the Panamanian president and a huge debt. The mission is to learn what the President intends to do with the Panama Canal. But what the two do is concoct a tremendous fictional tale about former mercenaries who are ready to topple the current government and are willing to work with Britain and the US to do so. Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

panama | spy | tailor | president | canal | See All (126) »


In a place this treacherous, what a good spy needs is a spy of his own.


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

4 May 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El sastre de Panamá  »

Box Office


$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,837,068 (USA) (30 March 2001)


$13,491,653 (USA) (6 July 2001)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Geoffrey Rush could not drive a car so for all the scenes where Harry is seen driving, the car is either being pushed, towed, it's a double of Rush, or they're using background plates. See more »


Harry the tailor mispronounces a common term of his trade, "worsted". He pronounces it phonetically, but at least in British English it is correctly pronounced "woosted" with the "oo" as in "good". See more »


[first lines]
MI.6 Handler: Panama.
Andrew 'Andy' Osnard: Panama?
MI.6 Handler: Best I could do Andrew. Under the circumstances, given your sins. They were baying for blood.
See more »


References Casablanca (1942) See more »


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User Reviews

How nice to see Pierce Brosnan as a rotter.
27 March 2001 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

How nice to see Pierce Brosnan as a rotter. Without the man-tan make up, you can actually see his freckles.

A co-production of the Irish government and Columbia Pictures, The Tailor of Panama is an old-fashioned British espionage film that is Euro-light on the violence and silhouette-discreet on the sex. No skitzy MTV editing and no hip hop trendy hits. Which may be heaven for some and limbo for others.

Starring along with the current James Bond is Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis. Pierce is still handsome as hell and he's still a spy. This time he's been exiled to Central America to cool his heels. Overly ambitious, he latches on to local tailor to the rich and powerful and starts to squeeze him for information becoming more ruthless and despicable with every turn. The colorful Rush obliges him with making stuff up and this leads to all kinds of intrigue. Jamie Lee reprises her wife-who-doesn't-know-her-husband-is-a-spy role that she did in True Lies, but without the little black dress. The humor is very dark and very British. The plot is reminiscent of the 1960 Alec Guinness-Ernie Kovacs gem, Our Man in Havana, an early spoof of the Bond saga.

Tailor is taken from the '96 Le Carré novel of the same name. John the spymaster shares screenplay credit along with Andrew Davies and the veddy British director John Boorman, most famous for Deliverance. Yes, this is the man responsible for Dueling Banjos. Receiving Acad noms for directing Hope and Glory and the Banjo movie, he also has a producing credit here.

This is the first film done on location in Panama so the look is fresh and it's beautifully shot by veteran, Phillipe Rousselot who is currently working on Planet of the Apes.

This film is getting almost no hype and no promotion. Again, it's very low key with no gunfire, car chases or blood. The politics of Panama are in the forefront with more than one reference to the 'Frankenstein' Noriega and how he was set him up by CIA Head, George the First, Bush that is. Ah hem.

There are some splendid character actors in the supporting cast like John Polito of TV's Homicide and Martin Ferraro of TV's Miami Vice. Playwright Harold Pinter is in the strangest cameo role you may see this year. Scoop du Jour: in the role of the Tailor's son, we get a look and the kid who will star in the Harry Potter film, Daniel Radcliffe.

There is some stock footage of the political unrest and references to the thoroughly corrupt Central American government with lines from the Tailor like, 'you know what the poor call those?' pointing to the city's skyline, 'Cocaine towers! And the 85 banks? Launderettes!' You can easily understand why the media isn't getting behind this thing. But then again Traffic didn't win best picture, Gladiator did.

24 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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