Have you ever told a story that was blown so out of proportion that there was no way to get out?
The Tailor of Panama is set in the beautiful city of Panama, centered around a mischievous British spy Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) and a story-telling tailor Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush). The movie starts out a bit choppy, leaving us with some catching up to do if we stand any chance of understanding what is going on. Basically, Andy has been kicked out of his prestigious spy position down to a lowly assignment at the embassy in Panama...most likely for his gambling and numerous affairs. He immediately begins searching for a way to make himself look better to his bosses by assessing the situation surrounding the Panama Canal. As Panama is politically quite unstable at the time this movie is set, it shouldn't be hard for him to do, but he needs help to get information from the inside. Andy chooses Harry, who moved to Panama from England to leave behind secrets--secrets he'd much prefer never reach the ears of his American wife Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) and their two young children. Louisa has a powerful job as an administrator to the current Panamanian government, and all Harry seems to want is a quiet family life and to continue his success as the most celebrated tailor in Panama. Andy decides that with Harry's petty criminal background and current position of tailor to the powerful and important people in the government of Panama that Harry is the perfect man to help him spy and gain information about the government and Panama Canal. Andy also knows he can manipulate and blackmail Harry with his old secrets and need for money (debt and credit issues), as well as Harry's desire to keep his family safe in an unstable Panama.
Harry does indeed know everyone and hears quite a bit from his customers, who include senators, bankers, important journalists, and even the president of Panama, as he fits them for custom-made business suits. All of his customers know, however, that Harry enjoys telling stories...the more outrageous, the better. It seems that he feels a bit left out...that even though he is the most celebrated tailor, he is looked down upon and isn't appreciated. His stories make him feel important and he begins to feel even more important when Andy demands information. He therefore begins fabricating elaborate stories of a revolutionary underground group...but can he keep it under control? Does Andy really believe him? What do his wild stories mean for his family, friends, and Panama?
The Tailor of Panama isn't great...it isn't bad either. There are some fun witty stories that make The Tailor of Panama worth a watch. The acting is good, and the scenery is beautiful surrounding Panama. Unfortunately I just wasn't that entertained. I really wanted to be pulled into the stories and believe that everything was true, but I couldn't. I think if Director (John Boorman), could have made each scene a little more seamless, we could have really began to become more involved in each of their lives. In the end, the Tailor of Panama is pretty bland; it is fun to watch at times but not for the long haul.
Right from the beginning I knew that The Tailor of Panama was going to be rough around the edges as far as video goes. The film is extremely inconsistent. There are times that I almost felt as if I were watching a SD-DVD--but then there were other times when the picture looked very nice. For instance, there was a scene when Andy first got to Panama and had a meeting at the embassy. During this scene the quality dropped to SD-DVD quality with poor skin tones, glare, and out-of-control grain. This was contrasted by the few times I could watch the beautiful outdoor scenes of Panama go by and feel almost as if I were there. One scene pops into mind when Harry is driving his two kids to school and every car is vibrant in color, and ever person on the street is very detailed. Unfortunately, this transfer reminded me of some of the very first titles on Blu-Ray...very inconsistent or just a very poor transfer all together.
Sony has given us an extremely awkward track, presented in 5.0 DTS and 5.0 PCM. Given there is basically no action...the movies is nearly entirely dialogue...I thought this might be sufficient. I was wrong. As Geoffrey Rush gets into his part of Harry, his dialogue becomes more complex and spoken more quickly. At times, this causes the sound to get very difficult to hear because of a lack of better audio track support. There are times of very soft audio, but never any times of loud audio that would make you turn down the volume for one short scene. Most of the time, the audio is flat and the only real surround use is when there are cars on the streets of Panama driving past. Considering the movie is a spy drama, not an action movie, I would have hoped for a nice audio track so that we could hear the audio clearly, but unfortunately we just aren't given one.
Directors Commentary: John Boorman gives us a pretty nice commentary track. During the beginning you could tell he didn't really know how to start and just talked about what he saw on screen. As he progressed he really had some neat insight. One thing that I really enjoyed was hearing some of the history of Panama. You could tell that he really took special care of making sure that everything in the movie was authentic. He goes on to explain how every detail in the film was made to look like Panama as much as possible, and then he talks about the history of Panama and how it all ties in.
Another fun insight that he had was when he talked about the two kids in the film, Mark and Sarah. Boorman talks about Mark (Daniel Radcliffe) and how he plays Harry Potter in this new movie and how he doesn't want him to be stuck with the Harry Potter figure forever...hmm I wonder if Harry Potter listened to him. Sarah, is actually Boorman's daughter and he talked a little about how he doesn't know if casting a young child...especially his child...in a movie is the right thing to do or not.
Other than these few fun insights, the rest is pretty standard. He goes on explaining how they shot the film, especially how they shot in Panama and the restrictions they had. He also talks a good amount about character choices and why he felt the cast was the best it could have been.
This is by far the best part of the special features.
Perfect Fit: A Conversation with Pierce Brosnan & Geoffrey Rush: This is a 25 minute conversation between Brosnan and Rush which they try and keep talking for the 25 minutes. You can tell that this was not planned out and they really have a difficult time keeping conversation flowing smoothly. They touch on things that we really already knew, like character choices, what it was like working with the director and his choices for characters, and going to the source of Panama trying to make it authentic. This is a really difficult one for me to tell anyone to go watch, unless your two favorite actors in the world are Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush.
Alternate Ending w/ commentary by John Boorman: This ending really didn't touch me in any way. Maybe that is because I wasn't a huge fan of the regular ending so I was really hoping that this might be a "better" ending but by no means was it. The commentary was a nice touch to try and feel what was going through Boorman's head, but again, nothing special here.
Choppy start can leave you a bit confused...abrupt, unimaginative ending. Rush and Brosnan play great off each other, feeding each other misinformation in a way that can leave us (the audience) confused if we don't pay close attention. It definitely explores the helpless feeling one can get when you realize in are way in over your head...life really is not a game. Lives can hang in the balance. Add on top of that an extremely inconsistent video transfer and a mediocre audio track...leave this one for a rental.