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If you understand irony, this film should be a real riotous laugh straight
through. It is possibly one of the most brilliant movies so far this
millennium, outright disrespectful of the "spy" theme: Brosnan's
degenerated, decadent b*****d spy Osnard is just the way one would picture
James Bond in real life, had the latter not been so awfully loyal.
Osnard is James Bond minus loyalty and with his self-confidence, decadence
and sexism turned up a couple of notches. A brilliant character,
acted. Another fantastic actor is the amazing Geoffrey Rush in the role as
the Tailor of Panama, Harry Pendel.
The story is absolutely fascinating, one of the most clever and witty stories to emerge in a long while - the Tailor of Panama reluctantly becomes a spy and conjures up non-existent government plots to sell the Panama Canal to the Chinese, which makes the English and the Americans (portrayed as a bunch of idiots with delusions of grandeur and as militaristic blow-hards with victory as the only goal) react aggressively.
It is important that one understands that this film is serious in one respect only: its comedy. Don't see this expecting to see a thrilling spy-movie. It isn't, though I find the scope of the film thrilling. It's more of a comedy, and if you can't see that when the American general with tears in his eyes blurts: "There is a star missing from the American flag!", then you're not really equipped for this kind of film. The reason I'm writing this is that some reviewers have found the movie to be silly... which is just what one would think if one didn't get it.
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
It's too bad about the low IMDB rating for this movie. It is a deft blend of James Bond, Casablanca and Dr Strangelove which directs its often vicious tongue-in-cheek barbs at both the intelligence industry and the spy films which glorify it. While it can be enjoyed "straight", that is as a story in its own right, I think those who miss its satirical structure (the film doesn't directly let the audience in on the joke - it must be inferred), miss half the fun.
There are no heroes or villains in "The Tailor of Panama," only exploiters and victims. Some may be turned off by the cynical tone of the film. For example, Andy Osnard, the British secret agent, played by Pierce Brosnan (who else?) is a scheming sociopath, not a patriotic hero. The title character, Harry Pendel, played by Geoffrey Rush, is a liar and an ex-convict. Don't be put off by these flawed characters, though. In the great tradition of John LeCarre's characters, these devious, selfish people are endlessly interesting -- and believable. I suspect that those who did not like this film reacted as they did because of a lack of heroes and because the outcome of the machinations it depicts are sadly grotesque. Nevertheless, this is the thinking person's spy movie. Highly recommended, 8 out of 10.
The Tailor of Panama is an atmospheric, well-crafted thriller in which the actors have an infectiously good time with their characters, especially an excellent and hilarious Pierce Brosnan as Andy Osnard, a roguish British spy who is sent to Panama (superbly described as "Casablanca without heroes") to keep out of trouble and get back his government's trust. However, even in post-Cold War diplomacy you have to play the game and earn your wage. The diplomats still have to listen to their sources. Osnard selects British ex-pat tailor Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) to be his information source, using Pendel's hidden past to get his cooperation. Pendel is well-placed as his wife works for the director of the Panama Canal Company, but he also has friends formerly in the anti-Noriega ranks. Osnard passes on what Pendel tells him to his superiors. These two characters start to spin a web of exciting misinformation that they start to revel in, but this has consequences which escalate beyond their control. The background of Panama, from its "laundromats" (banks) to its seedy nightclubs, suits the characters and the story perfectly, and gives the film an atmospheric richness of the type director Boorman excels in. It is a treat for those who love international political intrigue and who may have traveled or lived in such places. This is a thriller which relies not on hi-tech filmmaking gimmicks (and there are many opportunities to), but on characters interesting enough to follow all the way through the film. It has an old-fashioned feel, and an wry and mischievous humor. Some may see some implausibility in the final conseuences of Osnard's and Pendel's actions, but on the whole the shamless good time they have bring these (almost) anti-heroes to life is infectious. Great fun.
In `The Tailor of Panama,' Pierce Brosnan plays a sort of evil version of
his James Bond persona, a womanizing British spy more concerned with his
personal aggrandizement than with duty to queen and crown and all those
virtues we, parochially, tend to think of as uniquely `Western' - virtues
like liberty, freedom and democracy.
Based on John Le Carre's novel of the same name, `The Tailor of Panama' is not quite so positive in its assessment of the West's innate benevolence. It is, in fact, an attack on the evils of the modern nation-building process, wherein developed countries like the United States and Great Britain engage in all sorts of covert skullduggery in an effort to protect their own strategic interests in the Third World community. If this involves propping up or installing immoral regimes - or toppling potentially moral ones - that, as Le Carre sees it, is all part of the game we naively call `international diplomacy.'
The setting of the film is Panama City right after the takeover of the canal by the Panamanians. Fearful that its interests might soon be threatened, the British government sends one of its own secret agents, Andy Osnard, to ferret out some British citizen who may have contacts with the authorities in the city and may, therefore, be privy to information pertinent to their concerns. Andy alights on Harry Pendel, a good-natured, idealistic tailor who does, indeed, seem to have some entree with the higher-ups in the local government. Harry also happens to be married to Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis), who actually works supervising the canal, so, of course, Harry can be quite an informative source of information if he happens to put his mind to it. Andy, knowing that Harry has a few major debts to pay off, moves in for the kill and engages Harry's efforts. The only problem is that Harry, beyond being impeccably moral, also loves to spin a fantastic yarn or two, and Andy has to figure out whether the information Harry is feeding him is really the truth or just the product of an overactive imagination.
The complexity of the plotting works both for and against the film. On the one hand, the audience has a fun time following the narrative along its complicated mazelike path, meeting interesting people and visiting unusual sites along the way. Moreover, we are afforded a fascinating glimpse into the sleazy world of backstage nation-building in a so-called `Banana Republic.' On the other hand, we often find ourselves a bit confused as to the why and wherefore of many of the actions, and, far worse, the movie never establishes enough of a quality of credibility to make us believe it all. This is certainly the case in the film's final stretches when the too-easily duped U.S. and British governments launch an all-out attack on the city based on only the flimsiest of evidence. Yet, perhaps, that is Le Carre (and director John Boorman's) thesis: that such takeovers are often rooted in causes that are circumstantial, prefabricated or totally beside the point. If this is the case, both the writer and the director have failed to create the tone necessary to pull off such a sophisticated idea. For, although there are flashes of sharp humor shot throughout the entire film, the general ambience is never far-out and witty enough for us to classify the work as satirical. As a result, the final scenes seem somehow more silly than provocative.
This is not, however, to suggest that `The Tailor of Panama' is not a worthwhile and interesting film. In fact, it succeeds almost on the strength of its performances alone. Brosnan does a superb job poking fun at his signature spy persona, as he utilizes his trademark suavity to get exactly what he wants - be it information, a load of cash, or a roll in the hay with a gorgeous female companion. As the title character, Geoffrey Rush delivers yet another outstanding performance, somehow managing to make Harry seem both incredibly weak and amazingly strong at the same time. In fact, Rush, quite literally, carries this film, earning the audience's sympathy from beginning to end. Curtis turns in her usual fine performance, although her role seems a bit undernourished compared to those of the two male leads.
`The Tailor of Panama,' although ultimately unsatisfying, comes pretty damn close to being a worthwhile success.
Dumb. Stupid. Requires short attention span. I'm not talking about the
movie, but rather the people who have critically lambasted this intelligent,
stylish adaptation of John Le Carre's novel. Kudos to John Boorman, Pierce
Bronsnan, Geoffrey Rush and a stellar cast. If you looking for an
alternative to braindead blockbusters and regurgitated teenage comedies,
then you've stumbled upon the right film. Imagine the complete antithesis
of James Bond, a man who puts self before king and country, and loves them
and leaves them with relish - enter Brosnan's Andy Osnard. Sit back and
watch with sheer delight as this corrupt British spook pulls the strings
that sets the U.S. on course for a second invasion of Panama.
Misinformation is the game, and Osnard is planning to get rich on it. His
pawn is the tailor of the title, Harry Pendel (brilliantly played by
Geoffrey Rush). The film moves a snappy pace, the dialogue is witty and
often times hilarious, and the cinematography, music and editing are all
first rate. Who cares if two shots of a jet in the air scream bad CGI?
That's not what this film is about. We're talking intelligent plotting,
great writing, excellent acting, and another sexy, devilish turn for Brosnan
that is slightly reminiscent of his Thomas Crown character. Brosnan, in my
opinion, always fares best when he's playing against Bond type -- and here
he excels. DO NOT listen to the naysayers on this one -- unless GODZILLA or
ARMAGGEDON are your favorite movies. If you appreciate the dense, textured
films of the late 60's-early 70's, then this one is for you. They sure
don't make them like this anymore and you wouldn't know that they had with
regard to Tailor, since Columbia's flying this one way under the radar. As
always, they must be figuring that it'll play to the over 35 demo, so why
even bother promoting it. Sad times these are, folks, when a first rate
entertainment like this is ignored at the box office, and ignored by its own
distributors. But there's always another Scream, American Pie and Halloween
around the corner, so viva la cinema. Highest rating.
How nice to see Pierce Brosnan as a rotter. Without the man-tan make up,
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.
In the present Fahrenheit 9/11 atmosphere on re-watching this film I
find much to admire not due to its incendiary political comment but
from the skill of its making and its continued relevance which is the
sign of a film which, I hope, will endure.
Ignoring the politics, for a moment, there is a lot to appreciate in Boorman's quick editing, interplay of farce and tragedy and ability to sum up a very complex story with telling detail. He draws stunning performances out of his actors (apart from the ever annoying Jamie Lee Curtis). Brosnan shifts character bewilderingly but by the end his roguish charm has been fully shed to reveal the horror of the man beneath, making Geoffrey Rush's exploitation believable and pathetic.
This ranks, along with the Killing Fields and Salvador (I'm sure I've forgotten many other worthy examples), as one of my favourite angry anti-war, anti-interventionism films arguing that where the justifying intelligence isn't good enough the rich and powerful states do not have the right to interfere, at least unless their motivations are purer than self interest. On the other hand, it is a great human drama with the country which serves as its backdrop used to great effect to emphasise the human tragedies played out within. Watch and enjoy, but you may find the first 10-15 minutes difficult until you have settled with the style - definitely worth a second watching.
This brilliant actor is so reminiscent of Alec Guiness, sinking into his roles so well and in this movie merging with the character, every inch the fawning fussy tailor with other agendas on the side and a secret past. I do not care for Jamie Lee Curtis's performances normally, I find her brittle with no depth, but here she shines with a light sense of humour and a feminist conscience and fidelity that brings a true authenticity to the role. the marriage portrayed here is highly believable, lots of lovely nuances and the tailor himself fussilly tending to braiding his daughter's hair and making sure the children get to school on time. Enter Pierce Brosnan who portrays an appalling cad here. You can tell he relishes the chance to play a true unsophisticate, preying on any woman who crosses his path. I will not give away the plot which spins very much like "Our Man in Havana" another wonderful movie. some of the roles were prettied up for Hollywoodland, Marta was more tragic and mute than she needed to be, Jamie Lee far too soignee and elegant. All in all a 7 out of 10. John Boorman never lets me down.
Geoffrey Rush is excellent as Harry, an Englishman with a sadly shady
past who has re- invented himself in Panama as the best tailor in the
country, making clothes for the rich and politically powerful. Into his
world comes Osnard, played by Pierce Brosnan. A morally corrupt,
self-serving MI6 spy, sent to Panama as a last chance after seducing a
Euro diplomats wife.
Many were bowled over by the irony of casting Brosnan, so associated with James Bond, as this much realer, creepier Bond alter ego. A man who is handsome, and self-confident, but whose endless seduction of women seems smarmy not sexy, and who delights in screwing other people while profiting himself.
For me the casting was actually problematic. Brosnon's terrific, but the irony is so distractingly obvious, that it pulled me out of the story, and made me think too much about film and our hero images instead of simply accepting the character. Beyond that, Osnard is drawn a little too broadly for my taste. He's so transparent, I have a hard time he gets anyone to trust him even for a moment. If his inner self-serving pig were a bit better hidden, it might have given the audience more to unravel, and make other characters' willingness to do his bidding a bit easier to buy.
The mix of tones also was a bit of a misfire for me. Never quite darkly funny enough to ascend into true satire, but certainly never edgy enough to be taken seriously, there's a lack of danger here. Unlike 'Dr. Strangelove', we never really think Harry and Osnard's games will reduce Panama to a pile of rubble, and the intimation of it seems false and a bit silly.
Yet, all that complaining is because the movie is good enough, smart enough, brave enough and entertaining enough that I felt frustrated it didn't quite work as brilliantly as is should. But I'd certainly still recommend it, in spite of my long winded misgivings, and I'm also willing to give it another look.
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