ONE STAR - DEGRADING
The John Boorman spoof of James Bond’s 007 persona is degrading. Full of clever allusions and tongue-in-cheek political and social observations, “The Tailor of Panama” could have been a truly engaging and entertaining film. Instead, it is an embarrassment morally and spiritually.
Based on the 1996 book by John Le Carre, the story focuses on the relationship of a disgraced British spy named Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) and a British tailor living in Panama named Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush).
A self-declared womanizer who has been disgraced by his promiscuous behavior, Osnard has been banished by the British M16 agency to Panama. But this move only sets the stage for Osnard to increase his “wicked” ways.
Proclaiming that women are attracted to his “wickedness,” Osnard uses his good looks and connections to either manipulate women or attempt to blackmail and control them.
Though the film is obviously spoofing the 007 sexual prowess, the film takes it to the level of sexual addiction. Osnard is incapable of treating women with dignity and respect. When he meets a woman, he cuts through the conversation and relationship they could have as persons and simply advises them that they have two choices: to be with him in bed now, or to be with him later. The women in this film all choose now, a degrading moral statement about women. Women are also exploited by the film as Osnard conducts business in a brothel full of open doors and pornographic videos.
The tailor Pendel is a more complex person. Respectful and committed to his wife Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis), Pendel began his life in poverty and committed the crime of arson to help his uncle. After his time in prison, his uncle sent him to Panama where Pendel fabricated a new life for himself, weaving together a new past and an elevated future as easily as he did his tailored suits.
But Pendel’s deception leave’s him vulnerable to the manipulations of Osnard. Needing an informant to gain information about the governmental affairs of Panama, Osnard discovers Pendel’s lies and economic problems and blackmails him into being his source of information since he is tailor to the leading people of Panama, including the president.
Controlled by Osnard, Pendel’s life becomes a web of lies and deceits. Lured by the money he is paid to give information, Pendel begins to create fictional accounts that becomes increasingly surreal and dangerous. One such account catches the attention of the British and American governments and sets the stage for a danger far beyond what either of them expected.
But instead of bringing the anticipated consequence to the lies and deceit as a moral compass, the film creates a final situation in which Osnard flies away with monetary rewards and sexual opportunities having escaped the moral and spiritual accountability such a lifestyle creates.
In our postmodern culture the sexual behaviors of our leaders are often excused as irrelevant to the job they are doing for their government. Yet, such an attitude creates a world in which the self-serving immorality of men like Osnard can prey on the lives of vulnerable and innocent people with immunity. What is needed both in film and in life are people who will respect and honor others by being faithful, respectful and truthful. Without such a foundation history has shown us that the structures of society and culture will crumble.