The Tailor of Panama

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Veteran director John Boorman's treatment of a "light" spy novel by John le Carré. Neither the director nor the original novelist (as well as co-screenwriter and executive producer) is much noted for humor, and their unabating stabs at it here are not so much martini-dry as they are day-old-champagne flat. Still, it seems quite fitting, even long overdue, that the intellectual's (the liberal's, the Vietnam protester's) favorite spy novelist, the anti-Fleming, the heir to Graham Greene, should finally get around to casting James Bond (more or less) as the principal villain: a bed-hopping, cigarette-puffing, cocktail-swilling British agent, stained by a sex scandal and sent in disgrace to the tropical Siberia of Panama ("Casablanca without heroes"), where he redeems himself with his superiors through made-up tosh about a secret resistance movement and a pending sale of the Canal to China. Filling the role with the current screen Bond, Pierce Brosnan, completes the illusion, all the way to his insufferable arrogance and tacky wisecracks. There is a passé trendiness about this -- somewhere in the neighborhood of The President's Analyst and Casino Royale. But the underlying themes of our natural susceptibility to fiction, the paranoid credulity in particular of cloak-and-dagger types, and the human toll of the spy "game," are more durable. With Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendan Gleeson, and Catherine McCormack. (2001) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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