Fearful SymmetrynOne of my favorite films is Carol Reed’sn1960 adaptation of Graham Greene’snnovel Our Man in Havana, which tellsnthe tale of James Wormold, an ordinarynEnglishman somehow marooned in pre-nGastro Havana, where he manages a vacnumnshop.nThis most unadventurous of fellowsnsuddenly finds himself seduced into spyingnfor British military intelligence by thenpromise of big money. Wliolly unsuitednto the task, he decides to invent the “intelligence”nhis spymasters crave. Thisnway, he convinces himself, he will benable to take their money and, at the samentime, do no harm. What he doesn’t foreseenis that his fantasies will be taken seriouslynnot only by the credulous Brits butnby an equally benighted “other side.” Tonhis horror, the professional spies begin tonendanger a swelling number of innocentsnon the basis of his supposedly harmlessnimaginings.nAs he had done with The Third Man,nReed collaborated with Greene both onnthe script and the filming — with marvelousnresults. Wlio could resist a movienthat puts Alec Guinness, Noel Goward,nand Ernie Kovacs in the same frame?nForty years later, director John Boormannhas followed in Reed’s footsteps. He hasncollaborated with today’s foremost espionagennovelist, John le Garre, to film hisn1996 narrative The Tailor of Panama, an330-]3age homage to Greene’s Havana. Asnle Garre himself points out in the afterword:n”Witliout Graham Greene this booknwould never have come about. [His] notionnof an intelligence fabricator would notnleave me alone.” So it’s not surprising thatnBoorman’s adaptation reworks Reed’s filmnalmost point-for-point and includes somenunlikely—but ultimately brilliant—casting.nAltliough not as broadly comic as OurnMan in Havana, The Tailor of Panama isnjust as deft and devastating. Tliere’s plentynof humor, much of it angry and edged withndisgust, but the fun is never allowed to detractnfi’om the all-too-convincing portrayalnof the human waste that international intriguenleaves in its wake.nLike many of le Garre’s works, Panamanrevolves around a character doubling.nThis is announced early in the film whennIn The Darknby George McCartneynThe Tailor of PanamanProduced by John le Carre,nJohn Boorman, and Kevan Barkernwith Columbia PicturesnDirected by John BoormannScreenplay by John le Carre,nJohn Boorman, and Andrew DaviesnReleased by Columbia PicturesnHarry Pendel, the eponymous tailor, tenderlynhelps his ten-year-old daughter rehearsenWilliam Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger”nwhile taking her to school. When shencomes to the last lines, “What immortalnhand or eye / dare frame thy fearful symmetry,”nshe mispronounces “symmetry.”nAs he patientiy corrects her, a skulkingnfigure emerges from the background almostnas if summoned by Blake’s words.nThis is British intelligence agent AndynOsnard, who has designs on Pendel andnwill shortly become his sinister secretsharer.nTogether, they constitute a “fearfulnsymmetry” indeed. Osnard has longnwallowed in ruthless, squalid experience,nwhile Pendel has gingerly nurtured a deliberaten(if somewhat soiled) innocence.nOnce Osnard corners Pendel, it will be anbattle to the finish.nPanama is one of those rare actionnfilms that insists that deeds have consequencesnfor which people must take responsibility.nFurther, it expects its audiencento listen to its dialogue. Worse, it hasnno special effects. Well, that’s not quitentrue: There is one special effect—PiercenBrosnan’s remarkably fierce performancenas Osnard, the shrewd, bullying fieldnagent determined to recruit Pendel fornspy work. He sees real opportunity innPendel, the British expat with a compromisingnsecret in his background, and henmeans to exploit him for all he’s worth.nUntil now, Brosnan has always seemednentirely innocent of acting. He has beennlittle more tiian a glamorous cipher at thencenter of the James Bond films. His talentnhas been to look heroically debonairnas the action swirls around him—a sort ofnfeathery echo of Gary Grant, floatingnthrough his roles with weightless elegance.nBut here, astonishingly, Brosnannhas real heft and force. He’s taken hisnBond persona and twisted it a few signifi­nnncant degrees toward the sinister. Whatnemerges is the real James Bond —thenman behind the series’ cartoon, a thugnbarely disguised by a patina of pseudo-upper-classnBritish manners.nBrosnan’s performance is a revelationnon several levels and will, I hope, upsetnhis fans. From behind his enviable looks,nhe manages to project a moral ugliness ofntruly monstrous proportions. Gone arenthe arch moues and fussy primping at hisnperfectly tailored suits. He grins andnsnarls menacingly in his rumpled tropicalnlinens, wearing a two-day beard and an47-year-old stomach sagging from drinknand indolence. His blue eyes have andeadly reptilian cast. As he lounges in anchair or slouches against a windownframe, he tilts his head slightiy forwardnand gazes from under the thick cover ofnhis black eyebrows, probing every personnhe meets for weaknesses he can exploit.nAny presentable woman under 50 becomesna target for his predatory come-onsngarnished witii sleazy double entendres.nMeeting a pretty diplomat at the Britishnlegation in Panama Gity, he brazenlynmakes passes at her under the ambassador’snnose. At one point, she remarksnthat, compared to London, their officesnare “a little on the pokey side.” A masternof adolescent repartee, he lasciviously repeatsnher words: “A bit on the pokey side’snall right for me.” Although she rolls herneyes at his charmless banter, she windsnup in his bed. Osnard assumes he neednnot respect others to get his way; he merelynhas to lean on them —and sadly, he’snright more often than not. At one point,nhe notices another woman whose profilenhas been horribly scarred. Remarking onnher comely body, he wonders aloudnwhether she would be willing to turn hernface away while he availed himself of hernyet-undamaged charms.nThis is the real 007: irredeemably vulgarnand unspeakably callous, a man whonroutinely intimidates and beats others intonsubmission. Ian Fleming once said henconceived of Bond as a blunt instrumentnwielded by the state to defend its interests.nOsnard shows us the consequencesnof being a blunt instrument both to othersnand to himself He wears a permanentnsneer, consumes pornography, andncarries a hip flask from which he steadilynnips. He’s clearly determined to anes-nJUNE 2001/47n