Smuggling, larceny, character assassination and subversion: John le Carré and his collaborator John Boorman get away with murder here. Under the guise of turning out an exotic spy thriller starring 007 himself - Pierce Brosnan - Boorman has instead fashioned a deft, dapper, quintessentially English comedy playing on our aggrandised post-colonial self-image. As Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush) puts it: 'We each of us have a dream of ourselves to be more than we are.' That goes double for MI6 man Andy Osnard (Brosnan), an unscrupulous scoundrel prepared to incite an international incident if he smells money in it. Exiled to Panama in disgrace, Osnard immediately insinuates himself into high society, using gentleman's tailor Harry as his conduit. Blackmailed and flattered, bullied and bribed, Harry dreams up an entire rebel movement - 'the Silent Opposition' - to boost Osnard's spending allowance. When that begins to flag, the pair concoct a mind-boggling intrigue in which Panama plans to sell the Canal to the Chinese. It's the biggest thing to hit British Intelligence since Suez. Le Carré's 1996 novel acknowledged a debt to Our Man in Havana, and Geoffrey Rush's performance might have been modelled on Alec Guinness: he makes Harry an endearingly decent mediocrity, a romantic whose sincerity far exceeds his honesty - making him easy prey for Brosnan's venal opportunist, casually suave to his very soul. (Brosnan so clearly relishes this chance to make mischief with Bond's credibility, it's hard to see how he can be trusted with the franchise again.) Working in a lighter register, Boorman has crafted a witty, classy and richly enjoyable morality play, which skewers the mercenary self-interest behind Anglo-American imperialism almost as an afterthought.