What’s it take for a spy to just get a decent retirement for once?! Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko and Will Patton star in The November Man.
Cast of Characters:
Peter Devereaux – Pierce Brosnan
David Mason – Luke Bracey
Alice Fournier – Olga Kurylenko
Sarah – Eliza Taylor
Celia – Caterina Scorsone
Hanley – Bill Smitrovich
Perry Weinstein – Will Patton
Director – Roger Donaldson
Screenplay – Michael Finch & Karl Gajdusek
Based on the novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger
Producer – Beau St. Clair & Sriram Das
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use
Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), code named “The November Man”, is a lethal and highly trained ex-CIA agent, now living the quiet and peaceful life in Switzerland.
Ooh! I know where this is going!
Until he’s pulled out of retirement for one last mission.
“Just when I thought I was out… They pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone
Devereaux’s assigned to protect valuable witness Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko), but soon he uncovers another assignment that has him as the target of former friend and protege David Mason (Luke Bracey), ’cause of information he’s obtained about the CIA conspired Chechen War that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent lives.
Director Roger Donaldson broke onto the scene in the ’80s with the underrated Smash Palace, The Bounty and No Way Out. He also did Cocktail, but we can forget about that.Once the ’90s rolled around, he fell in a rut with Species, The Getaway and Dante’s Peak, forgettable films that are ironically more well-known than his stronger films. However, in 2008, he bounced back big time with the vastly underrated The Bank Job, which features one of Jason Statham’s finer performances. All in all, Donaldson’s career has definitely been inconsistent, but he’s capable of making an exciting thriller and has proven so before.
One consistent aspect of Donaldson’s films is that he can make a sleek looking action picture. He knows all the ingredients, necessary requirements and particularly beats needed for a film like this. The action is fine, at times it’s exciting, and Donaldson has a knack for killing characters instantly in ways that can jolt the viewer. It doesn’t go beyond that, though.
The problem is that the characters that fill up Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek’s script are such a bore, the action’s only exciting in appearance only. We don’t feel the sense of danger they should be feeling or care about their survival. It’s just the same action film tropes we’ve seen over and over again: the worn down retired agent brought back out of retirement, the lead female with a dark past, the “oh, so he was the bad guy all this time” character, and the silent but deadly assassin that hardly utters a word. They’d all be forgivable, though, if they had the slightest amount of depth given to them. For example, Brosnan’s Devereaux goes on a shooting rampage against his former colleagues, yet seems to feel no emotional repercussion for what he’s done. Maybe his career has made him emotionally and psychologically spent, but Finch and Gajdusek never tap into that. Granted, you might say I should forget the characters and just enjoy the ride, and if this film was cartoonishly fun like Shoot ‘Em Up or stylish like Sin City I could; however, The November Man wants to be treated like a serious John la Carre thriller (like A Most Wanted Man, this film deals with the Russian-Chechen conflict).
If there’s any upside here, it’s that Pierce Brosnan does give an earnest performance, and makes do with what he can out of a weak character. Olga Kurylenko is also fine as Devereaux’s key witness. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is a little hard to overlook the fact that this is a former James Bond and Bond girl together in another derivative spy thriller. Bill Smitrovich and Will Patton are solid veteran presences (despite the hammy dialogue coming out of Smitrovich’s mouth). Luke Bracey, on the other hand, is mostly stiff as the former protege now turned against his master (his Anakin Skywalker to Brosnan’s Obi-Wan Kenobi). I guess that stiffness will serve him well as Johnny Utah (formerly played by Keanu Reeves) in the Point Break remake due out next summer.
Too serious to be fun and not enough depth to be taken seriously, The November Man has the polished touch of a Roger Donaldson picture, but lacks any character depth to make the moments of danger palpable to the viewer. Brosnan gives a fine performance that shows he still has enough gas left in the tank, but it’s a performance that’s unfortunately mired in a mix of dull action cliches and tired tropes that make an overall forgettable movie.
I give The November Man a C- (★★).
REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…
9/1/14 What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
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9/6/14 The Congress
9/6/14 Life of Crime