Pierce Brosnan gets to relive his James Bond glory days in Roger Donaldson’s “The November Man” as Peter Devereaux, a former C.I.A operative that’s called out of retirement for one last mission. And it’s fun to see the sixty-one year old British actor play the part of the seasoned professional. Outsmarting government agents and bad guys—sometimes the two overlap—while kicking butt with ease. Brosnan doesn’t have to do much acting; he’s still got the suave smirk, the rich and soothing accent. Unfortunately, Brosnan is let down by a screenplay that’s too by-the-book and convoluted.
Based on the book “There Are No Spies” by Bill Granger, with a script by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, most of the movie’s action takes place in the city of Belgrade, Serbia. Though it may as well be referred to as: European Action Movie Playground, as gunfights, car chases, double crosses, big revelations and other action/thriller clichés happen without any trouble. The entire Belgrade police department appears to have taken a vacation while the events in the picture unfold and the pedestrians on the street may as well be cardboard cutouts. Normally this lack of interaction between the environment and central characters and events wouldn’t be a big problem but everything in “The November Man” feels too familiar. I mean we’re talking about yet another movie about yet another ex-Operative who’s called out of retirement. And Donaldson simply mixes in too many familiar ingredients resulting in a movie that probably thinks it’s being clever and complex when it’s bloated and muddled instead.
The strongest aspect of “The November Man” is the rivalry between Peter and young agent Mason (Luke Bracey) a former pupil of Peter’s. After Peter is reactivated by his former boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) and things go south, Mason chases Peter around the crowded Belgrade streets. While not great, the master/apprentice dynamic between Bracey and Brosnan is engaging and it’s entertaining to watch Brosnan gain the upper hand at nearly every turn. Had it just been about the rivalry, “The November Man” could have been at the very least a decent action/thriller. But Donaldson insists on adding in all these other familiar contrivances to try and complicate things.
Peter has to protect a young social worker Alice (Olga Kurylenko) who has some important information on the Russian president elect’s malevolent past. A flexible Russian female assassin that’s hired to kill Alice disappears and reappears sporadically throughout the picture and towards the end Peter’s twelve-year-old daughter is brought into the mix as well. All of these things making the picture more complicated and cliché than it needs to be. The daughter strand is a particularly lazy attempt to raise the stakes late in the game, as the character is nearly robotic.
All of these twists and turns that take place aren’t very surprising and the final mysteries involving Alice’s true identity and who the real antagonists are can be seen from a mile away. Not only that, the continuity between scenes is confusing at times; sudden transitions may leave you asking questions like: “hey, wasn’t that guy just being held in a C.I.A. interrogation room? How did he become in charge of the entire operation to find Peter?”
As I write this review there are already plans to make a sequel, which makes sense considering the movie concludes with a number of loose ends. Assuming the audience is going to be entertained enough by the first installment to want another one before the first one even comes out is risky. Especially when it isn’t an existing property. “The November Man” is by no means terrible—Brosnan’s charm certainly makes it watchable—but it’s not compelling or original enough to generate much interest in a sequel.