Women have been MI.6. agent Andy Osnard's weakness. As punishment for being caught sleeping with the wrong woman on his last posting in Spain, Andy is relegated to the global backwater of Panama as his next field assignment. Although nothing is happening there on the surface, Panama is still seen as having global importance due to the canal, with something always possible to rock the boat as seen by the recent history of the corrupt regime of Manuel Noriega. The advice of his superior is to co-opt one of the only few hundred British nationals living there to act as an informant for pay. Who Andy chooses is Harry Pendel, a men's suits tailor with Savile Row credentials through his now deceased business partner Arthur Braithwaite. This choice is because of Harry's client list, he the tailor to the elite and powerful, including the Panamanian president, who may treat him like the proverbial "bartender" or "hairdresser" confidante, and because his American wife, Louisa, works in a senior managerial position within the canal authority. But what may have swayed Andy's choice the most is that he knows the truth about Harry: that he not only does not have Savile Row credentials, but is an ex-con, Arthur Braithwaite was his Uncle Benny, also a criminal, and that despite his tailor shop doing good business, he is deep in debt from a farming venture gone wrong, none of this about which Louisa knows. As such, Harry has no choice but to cooperate, the payment from Andy which at least gets him out of his farm debt. As a side, Harry also has some connections to people who actively worked in the opposition against Noriega: Mickie Abraxas, who has turned to the bottle to cope, and Harry's store manager Marta, the right side of her face which shows the physical scars of that war, the scars at the hands of Noriega's men. With Andy placing more and more pressure on Harry to provide intel of some importance, Andy eventually learns through Harry that the Panamanian government is planning on selling the canal to the Chinese. This intel is exactly what Andy was looking for to set in motion a plan to reach his ultimate goal with this Panamanian posting. —Huggo
An atmospheric, well-crafted thriller with actors having an infectiously good time.
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.
- Sep 24, 2002
Contribute to this page
Suggest an edit or add missing content