THE NOVEMBER MAN
By Gary Murray
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey and Olga Kurylenko
Written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Running time 108 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Way back in the 1990s Pierce Bronson saved the James Bond series. Weakened by the last few outings of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, the franchise had seemed to have run out of both film titles and brilliant ideas. Goldeneye is the film that brought the series back and made the man an international star. Since those outings, Pierce has done such films as Mama Mia!, The Ghost and The Love Punch. He finally makes it back to his spy roots with The November Man.
Starting in 2008, Devereaux (Pierce Bronson) is a seasoned CIA agent training Mason (Luke Bracey). The older agent keeps drilling into the young man’s brain that it is a sign of weakness to have someone to care about. The two are taking part in an effort to botch an assassination. Their plans go terribly wrong and an innocent in taken down. It changes the lives of both men.
We flash-forward to today and Devereaux is retired and running a small café. Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) wants to bring Devereaux back into the fold for a simple mission. They need the extraction of a Russian that has sensitive information on the future president of Russia, Federov (Lazar Ristovski). It seems that there is a name that could topple the political system.
Mason, now a full-fledged agent is given the task of taking out an enemy target. In what is really the only true action sequence of the work, Mason accomplishes his mission. It is the person Devereaux was sent to bring in. In what is the only true tension building moment, the two men face each other, guns pointed at the other. Then they both back off.
Added to the mix is a female assassin hired by Federov. We know she’s a bad guy because she always wears black and always snarls. All three groups are looking for a young Serb woman and social worker Alice (Olga Kurylenko) is the key to discovering the history behind the secret.
The screenplay of The November Man is a cat and mouse game between Devereaux and Alice running from different groups while trying to find the whereabouts of the young Serb woman and how it all connects together. It is also about two different CIA agents and them both confronting what they do for a living.
The screenplay is written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek and based on the book There are No Spies by Bill Granger. While the novel may be a thrill ride, the screenplay wants to be a bit too clever for its own good and a bit too confusing for no apparent reason. After a while it becomes exhausting trying to keep straight who wants to outsmart whom. A bit more of a straightforward reading would have helped the outcome.
Directed by Roger Donaldson, the work is a bit all over the place. At times it feels like a lesser work of James Bond and at other times it feels like a bad version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The director is never sure exactly what kind of a film he wants to make and that lack of focus shows up on the screen..
Pierce Bronson still looks great and still can handle a weapon. Though there is a little salt and pepper in the temples, he can strike a dashing form. On more than one occasion it feels as we are back in James Bond land and our hero is saving the damsel in distress.
Luke Bracey never makes a true impression in The November Man. He seems to go through the motions more than deliver a solid action-drama performance. There is an automaton feel to the acting, more like the Terminator on a singular mission than an actor delivering a role.
Since she was a Bond Girl in the Quantum of Solace, Olga Kurylenko has been making a big impression on film audiences. With this role she gets to some real acting and the ending climax is truly one of the few moments that work on both an emotional level and a thriller level.
The real find in the film is Bill Smitrovich. His character is a chameleon and he truly gives the other actors something to strive for, a solid cutting-edge performance.
The November Man is much more of a thrill ride than a cinema experience. It is the kind of film meant to entertain, give a few spills and thrills and forgotten a week later. It is not as consistent as it needs to be and some of the plot holes are so big that they could lose a semi-truck in the depths.