Spies Unlike Us

Boorman and Le Carré bombard Panama with lies and lust but only a modicum of laughter

This is a white person's movie set against a brown backdrop, but all the talent rise to the occasion to present a world in flux as the nations of the world cluster around Panama's vital waterway. The movie zigs and zags about to suggest great cultural complexity, sometimes leaving Brosnan out for a few scenes at a time. When he is onscreen, deadpanning lines about "dark and lonely work, like oral sex, but somebody has to do it," his dry wit nicely complements the humid air. The main complaint is addressed to his counterpart; although it's probably illegal to say so, Rush grows wearisome as he hogs the camera and brays about the integrity of his craftsmanship or whatever.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama, an inventive and occasionally surprising -- but curiously action-free -- adaptation of John Le Carré's spy novel.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama, an inventive and occasionally surprising -- but curiously action-free -- adaptation of John Le Carré's spy novel.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama, an inventive and occasionally surprising -- but curiously action-free -- adaptation of John Le Carré's spy novel.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama, an inventive and occasionally surprising -- but curiously action-free -- adaptation of John Le Carré's spy novel.

Still, what's most unnerving about The Tailor of Panama is the film's overall tone, which wavers uncomfortably between modest thrills and modest farce. There's virtually no action and nary a cloak nor dagger in sight, and yet the package is labeled "spy thriller." It's curiously light fare for Le Carré -- and for Boorman -- scraping for tension rather than drowning us in it.

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