It's too bad about the low IMDB rating for this movie. It is a deft blend of James Bond, Casablanca and Dr Strangelove which directs its often vicious tongue-in-cheek barbs at both the intelligence industry and the spy films which glorify it. While it can be enjoyed "straight", that is as a story in its own right, I think those who miss its satirical structure (the film doesn't directly let the audience in on the joke - it must be inferred), miss half the fun.
John LeCarre's spy thriller is brought to the big screen. A British spy is banished to Panama after having an affair with an ambassador's mistress. Once there he makes connection with a local tailor with a criminal past and connections to all of the top political and gangster figures in Panama. The tailor also has a wife, who works for the canal administrator, and a huge debt. The spy's mission is to learn what the President intends to do with the Panama Canal, but he's really in business for himself, blackmailing the tailor into spinning a fantastic tale about the canal being sold to China and former mercenaries ready to topple the current government.
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