Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Tailor of Panama

Before hand I also watched another film of the day. The Tailor of Panama which I have seen in theatre and on TV before but which I continue to enjoy because of its significance in relation to the war in Iraqi and the belief in the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

Piers Brosnan plays a discredited MI6 operative after an affair with the mistress of an ambassador who sent to Panama where it is thought he will do no harm but keep an eye on the status of the canal. In the John le CarrĂ© book (inspired by Graham Green’s Our Man in Havana which is one of 11 novels by the writer I have in my library and which I have added to the will reread over the net year or so list) the canal is yet to handed to the Panama government for its control and management which is the situation in the film and which makes the story more effective. As is normal in such postings he is given the role as IT officer and sets out to find those among the ex pats and locals who will provide him entry into the governmental society as well as direct intelligence on any issues of concern. He selects the Tailor of Panama City for his first target for several reasons. The man is married to someone who is PA to the chief executive of the canal operating company. The self styled Saville Row tailor not only has the President and other government members as his clients but belongs to the club fraternised by the rich and powerful in the country. He can also be bought because he has debts, having invested in a farm on the advice and part owned without his knowledge by the bank manager an because is not a Saville Row trained but learned the craft while in prison (an unlikely tale as are most of the ingredients of the story but no matter). His mentor was an actual Saville Row Tailor, Uncle Benny, who acts as continuing mentor despite his death and is played by Harold Pinter.

Brosnan is true to form as the Bond style character, bedding any and every woman coming within his orbit and looking for a way to retire form the service with capital to live as he has become accustomed. In the book he is still seeking rehabilitation back to big time operations. He is fortunate that the Tailor is also on the make and a man fo great imagination with friends who were active opponents of the infamous General Manuel Noriega who became a prisoner of war when the USA invaded in 1989 and was then arrested in France after his release and is serving a term of imprisonment there after which he will be extradited back to Panama to be tried for human rights violations there. It is likely that now aged in his later 70’s he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Tailor is played by the brilliant Geoffrey Rush more recently known for his role as Lionel Logue in the Kings Speech with a grand history of role from the Marquis de Sade, Les Miserables, Elizabeth, the Life and death of Peter Sellers and Munich. He first fabricates that the on his recent Wold Tour the President put up the canal to the highest bidder and that the Chinese governments mainland and Formosa had joined forces to take control and gained a strong bases for activities in South America. When pressed especially by the Americans for evidence he attempts to gain information from the company by photographing papers brought home by his wife.

When this fails to convince he creates an opposition to the government friendly to the USA using his two friends. One Michelangelo Abaxas (Brenden Gleeson whose memorable roles for me is In Bruge and as Michael Collins)) was active against Noriega but was broken under torture in prison and although critical that nothing has changed since the creation of the existing regime he is a spent force and drinks his guilt at sense of failure and lack of courage to fight on. Rush through Brosnan paints the man as the leader of a new opposition and potential President given he right amount of funding Rush asks for £10 million which Brosnan increases to £15million and the British Ambassador steps up to £20 million..

Rush employs as a personal assistant another anti Noriega opponent who has one side of her face scarred from torturing under the former regime. She is also put up by rush as a movement leader with both the known pedigree of opposition and of being tortured. The Tailor is happily married with a family of two children and his wife is played for Jamie Lee Curtis, an excellent actor who I do not find sexy which has been a problem with some of her roles, but not in this instance where she plays an intelligent loyal wife and to the company for whom he works. While the ambassador, the political officer and another senior member of staff with whom Brosnan has a relationship are all sceptical about every aspect of the situation, the American are keen because of the decision to relinquish the canal especially the man who was required to hand over control who had wanted the country to become another State of the Union.

Then there is a development which threatens the enterprise in that Michelangelo on learning of renewed police interest and advised by Rush to go to ground with his PA gets drunk instead and commits suicide. Rush is distraught at this although his PA says that their broken friend had been waiting for an excuse to take such action. On learning fo the development the Americans see this as action by the regime and the excuse to undertake a new invasion with their forces already on alert and available within four hours to launch.

Meanwhile Brosnan’s London boss has arrived with the negotiated £15 million which he takes to Brosnan’s flat to await developments. He had insisted on handing the money over directly to the future President but Brosnan has emphasised that without the money being handed to him there would be no opposition. This confirms to his Panama based colleagues that the whole thing is a fraud but too advanced to halt the American intervention. There is then a Saigon type attempt of the top people to leave the country. Meanwhile Rush attempts to advise the British of the fraud and is ignored and then attempts to stop Brosnan leaving. Brosnan persuades him to help him get to the airport for a fee and there the Ambassador also assists for his share, a modest £1.25million. Meanwhile Jamie has gone to her boss who contacts the President who contacts the USA opposite number and persuades him to order the withdrawal. So it can be said that not much harm was done especially as Jamie forgives her husband who comes clean about his background. The film is great fun especially when Brosnan uses a pay by the hour brothel for his meetings and also takes Rush for another meeting at a gay club. It is all more Graham Greene than La Carre but with the serious point about the gung ho infallibility and believability of the Americans. Myth or Truth?

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