"The November Man"
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2014
Running Time: 108 minutes
Pierce Brosnan was the fifth James Bond. Olga Kurylenko was one of Daniel Craig’s Bond girls. Roger Donaldson directed No Way Out and The Recruit. They have excelled at playing spy games but you wouldn’t know it from The November Man. This mediocre post-Cold War thriller takes its cue from a series of novels by Bill Granger that feature retired CIA agent Peter Devereux, but it feels directly influenced by the Bourne franchise and Craig’s rebooted Bond. Brosnan recently complained that his 007 missions were too tame compared to Craig’s, so it’s not hard to imagine that The November Man reflects what Brosnan wished his Bonds could have been. Bearing this in mind, The November Man is as gritty and grounded as any Craig Bond, albeit with enough bullets to the head, punches to the face, and consensual and forced sex to warrant an “R” rating. When Bond goes rogue, though, it’s usually because he believes it’s the best way for him to serve Queen and Country. In The November Man, Devereux is more like Jason Bourne: he’s out for himself, and heaven help anyone who gets in his way. Devereux comes out of the cold to seek revenge for the death of an old flame, an aide to Russian presidential hopeful who may have committed war crimes during the second Chechen War. One thing leads to another and Devereux finds himself protecting Olga Kurylenko’s on-the-run social worker. She targeted for assassination because of second-hand information she may possess about the corrupt politician. There’s a lot of murky stuff that goes on in The November Man that will delight conspiracy theorists, but the story too often gets tripped up on its many unnecessary twists, turns and dubious character motivations. For example, one primary antagonist switches sides at the last minute for unclear reasons. Is it because he has a crisis of conscience? Don’t look to The November Man’s sketchy script for answers or to Donaldson, who is more concerned with mimicking the broody intensity of the Bourne sequels. As the humorless Devereux, Brosnan puts his Bondian killer instincts to good use but gives his grieving spook an edge and a coldness that was lacking from his 007. There’s a moral ambiguity to Devereux that The November Man tiptoes around—he often acts as badly as the bad guys—but Brosnan rarely is afforded the opportunity to play Devereux as anything but angry and pained. Who Devereux is before and after The November Man reminds a mystery. Is he even American? It’s a valid question to ask because Brosnan initially tries to differentiate Devereux from Bond by making him sound like he hails from a British working-class background. Think Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer. Kurylenko is fine in a perfunctory role that doesn’t give her much to do until everything falls into place at the end. Much is at stake in The November Man, or so we are led to believe, but everything takes a backseat to Devereux’s damaged relationship with his former protégé, Mason. The two engage in a series of cat-and-mouse games that would be more intriguing if Mason was played by a strong actor who could convincingly go head to head with Brosnan. But the bland Luke Bracey makes for a feeble adversary, so there’s little doubt from beginning to end that Brosnan will toy with Bracey as he sees fit. The November Man doesn’t end with a title card that declares “Peter Devereux will be back,” but a sequel is in the works. The November Man doesn’t so much make you yearn for Devereux’s return as much as it make you wonder whether Brosnan possesses what it takes to be the Bond of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall.
Aired: Aug. 28, 2014
Web site: http://www.thenovemberman.com/