After perusing the listings at the local theaters, I finally decided to give “The November Man” starring Pierce Brosnan a shot, and although it certainly isn’t destined for a place in the Spy Thriller Hall of Fame, it was entertaining enough to hold my interest from beginning to end.
Based upon Bill Granger’s novel titled “There Are No Spies,” the film revolves around CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Brosnan), whose code name is The November Man. The movie begins six years ago in Montenegro, where Devereaux and his partner, David Mason (Luke Bracey), have been assigned to protect a U.S. ambassador. When someone attempts to assassinate the guy, the trigger-happy Mason disobeys Devereaux’s order to hold his fire and ends up killing a child in the crowd. Devereaux is so upset by the incident that he retires from the FBI and open a small coffee shop in Switzerland.
Six years after Devereaux’s retirement John Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), his former boss, tracks him down and asks him to accept one last assignment. Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musilovic) is a CIA operative in Russia, where she has gone undercover to pose as the aide for Gen. Arkady Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski), a former general in the Russian Army and a presidential candidate. Ulanova has uncovered the name of someone who knows that Fedorov has committed war crimes, but she won’t release the person’s identity until she is extracted. She has specifically requested that Devereaux, with whom she had a daughter, be the one to get her out of Russia safely.
Devereaux accepts the mission, but what he doesn’t realize is that Mason, his former partner, also is the head of a team to extract Ulanova. As you might expect, this development complicates the intricate plot considerably, and I really don’t want to reveal too much more because there are a few good surprises along the way.
It should come as no surprise, however, that Devereaux and Mason did not part on the best of terms six years ago, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or Sherlock Holmes to deduce that when they realize they are competing for the same operation, things will not be particularly amicable between them. In fact, these two guys really can’t stand each other, and basically the story evolves into a deadly competition between Mason and his mentor. Both men possess extraordinary skills, and the ensuing game of cat and mouse is an intriguing one.
Now if you go to watch “The November Man” expecting something highly original, you won’t find it here. It’s a stereotypical spy thriller in that everything in the film has been done again and again in other films of the genre, but on the other hand, when we go to a film like this, we don’t really expect anything particularly thought provoking or original. What we want is a drama in which we can lose ourselves for 100 minutes and from which we derive satisfactory entertainment. If that’s what you are looking for, I think you’ll find it in this film.
Of course Bronson is no stranger to portraying the super agent. After all, he has played Agent 007 in four films during his career, and that’s why he appears so comfortable in the role of Devereaux, who in many ways is a much more complex character than James Bond. In the film’s production notes, Bronson offered an insightful analysis of his character.
“Devereaux is complicated. He’s a man who was in the field for many years. He’s learned and intelligent and yet he’s also a trained killer, a professional dyed in the wool agent, and he’s become very tortured and traumatized by that. He has this veneer of normality and yet he’s haunted by the ‘sins’ of his past life. So by the time we meet him, he uncomfortably traverses the two worlds — the dark underbelly of his life as a CIA agent and his rather genteel and civilized existence in Lausanne. There’s nothing black or white about Devereaux. He’s pretty lethal.”
Bronson succeeds very well in portraying both the hard and soft sides of his character. On the on hand he has been involved in missions requiring him to kill others, but he’s also a loving father who wants nothing but the best in life for his young daughter. It’s a testament to Bronson’s acting talent that he can convey the duality of Devereaux’s personality so effectively. In addition to Devereaux, you will meet a number of other characters in this film.
For example, Bracey brings a great deal of emotion to Mason, a guy who once had he utmost respect and admiration for Devereaux, but who now finds himself pitted against his former partner and friend. Smitrovich also is quite good as Hanley, Devereaux’s former boss, and the always entertaining Will Patton is on hand as Perry Weinstein, the ruthless head of Mason’s extraction team.
One of the most fascinating characters in the film is the mysterious Alice Fournier played by the stunningly beautiful Olga Kurylenko. I’m not going to say too much about Alice other than that she appears suddenly and then quickly evolves into a key character in drama. In the production notes Kurylenko offered just enough information about her character to make you want more.
“She’s very brave for doing what she does, but what I like about her also is that she’s just a simple girl; she’s not an agent or a superwoman. She’s a very regular, normal girl who gets the courage to go and step much further than her life would make you believe she could.”
Action fans should not be disappointed in this movie because it contains its fair share of chase scenes, fights, and gun battles. And although some of the things that happen in the movie are quite predictable, there were a few occurrences I didn’t see coming, and a few places also are quite suspenseful.
Despite its lack of originality, “The November Man” offers satisfactory entertainment in a summer that has been sadly devoid of quality films, and thus it earns the final score of a respectable seven.