August 31, 2014

The November Man

Shouldn't that be a dumpster on fire?

Grade: C +
Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Amila Terzimehic, Eliza Taylor and Will Patton
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

The November Man is better than most, if not all of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond efforts. Unfortunately, clearing that low hurdle isn’t much of an accomplishment.

Adapted from Bill Granger’s spy thriller novel “There Are No Spies,” the film boasts Brosnan, a venerable actor seemingly primed for a resurgence, and Roger Donaldson, a director well-suited to the genre with such credits as No Way Out, Thirteen Days, and The Bank Job. The two previously worked together in the volcano disaster flick Dante’s Peak.

Sadly, this prestige veneer covers an unstable foundation built upon an unnecessarily convoluted plot, cut-rate supporting cast and misogynistic undertow.

Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) is a skilled ex-CIA agent lured out of semi-retirement in Switzerland for professional and personal reasons to protect Alice (Olga Kurylenko), a relief worker filled with valuable and dangerous information … information you’ll tie your brain into a pretzel wondering why she didn’t share with the world far before the events in this film.

It’s all about CIA black ops in league with Russian nerdowells to once trigger a Czechian rebellion. So, there’s a Russian politician with a hidden past (Lazar Ristovski), duplicitous CIA minders (Bill Smitrovich and Will Patton) and a skilled but sexy female assassin (Amila Terzimehic).

The film aims to explicate the psychology of spies and machinations of geopolitics. But it utterly muddles the latter while failing to flesh out the former. Unending diatribes about international power and politics end up sounding like hollow filler. Meanwhile, the overly twisty plot smacks of a screenwriter weaned on a steady diet of John le Carré novels.

Devereaux is also chased by David Mason (Luke Bracey, lifeless), his estranged former CIA protégé. Devereaux calls Mason “the best friend I ever I had” at one point, which conflicts with every other scene in the film suggesting Devereaux never cared much for Mason personally or professionally. It’s much like all the characterizations in the film, which are described instead of being developed.

At one point, Devereaux slashes the femoral artery of a woman close to Mason, ostensibly to teach Mason another lesson about the dangers of letting human ties interfere with your secret agent status (a lesson we discover Devereaux ignored himself). It’s a wholly unnecessary scene, and we never hear from the hapless lady again after she’s carted to the hospital. She’s but one casualty of the film’s disposable, if not outright antagonistic attitude toward women, who are constantly couched as mere objects for abuse, derision and sexual conquest.

It’d be nice to see The November Man as the James Bond film Donaldson never got to make, cast with a former 007 and Bond Girl (Kurylenko from Quantum of Solace) looking to rectify past misfires. Unfortunately, the film is the cinematic equivalent of jogging on a treadmill—it raises your pulse, but ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere.