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The Tailor of Panama: Special Edition

Of the many differences between British spy novelists Ian Fleming and John le Carré, the most striking is their choice of protagonists. Fleming, creator of the James Bond franchise, saw spy novels as a bit of escapist fun — written in a clear, concise manner, the world of 007 surveyed sports cars, black-tie casinos, leggy women, and high-tech gadgets. Le Carré, on the other hand, has always favored a certain amount of verisimilitude when it comes to espionage yarns, and his recurring MI6 operative George Smiley is about as glamorous as a certified public accountant. Hence The Tailor of Panama (2001), based on Le Carré's 1996 novel, is not a spy movie with bathing beauties and Aston Martins, but instead concerns MI6 field agent Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), who is nearly fired for his extravagant lifestyle and penchant for bedding other men's wives. But as a last reprieve he is sent to Panama, where he is to assess the political climate and look after British interests. Determined to access the halls of power, Osnard decides to connect with Harold Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), a Savile Row tailor relocated to Central America, as he clothes the most powerful men in the country. As it turns out, Pendel has a few secrets of his own, and when Osnard threatens to expose him, Pendel cooks up a potential revolution by something called the "Silent Opposition" — a tall tale that claims the Panama Canal is at risk and gets the Pentagon very trigger-happy. Folks looking for a breezy action/adventure will doubtless find The Tailor of Panama a disappointment. This is no international spy movie in a candy-coated shell. But those with normal attention-spans will enjoy this film as a first-rate adaptation of an intricate spy novel by one of the genre's greatest masters. Rush plays the role of Pendel with convincing sincerity, illustrating his devotion to his family and his profession, but crushed by debt and willing to do almost anything for a quick payoff. Jamie Lee Curtis, as Pendel's American wife Louisa, is her normally resolute self (with echoes of the lighter True Lies), and support comes from a fine cast that includes Leonor Varela, Brendan Gleeson, Harold Pinter, and Catherine McCormack. But Tailor is very much Brosnan's set-piece, and his turn as Andy Osnard is delectable debauchery. Yes, this spy loves the ladies and the liquor, but Osnard is the anti-007 — the looks and the charm simply exist so he can play every situation to his own advantage. Brosnan previously played against type in The Fourth Protocol, but this time around he's a baddie with a wicked sense of humor. Columbia TriStar's The Tailor of Panama: Special Edition offers a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Features include a commentary with director John Boorman, an alternate ending with commentary from Boorman, a 25-minute interview with Brosnan and Rush, filmographies, and trailers for Tailor and Les Miserables. Keep-case.

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