Review: The November Man
Personal vendettas, double-crossing, walking away from explosions, and shooting guns whilst diving through closed doors: The November Man checks all the boxes for a generic action thriller and in doing so becomes a triumph of mediocrity.
At some point while watching, and it should come during the first act, one realizes that something is just a bit off with these proceedings. It’s not that this story about an ex-C.I.A. being pulled back into an entangled mess of covert geopolitics and cold murder is bad – I mean, it almost is – it’s that The November Man tries so hard to be something special, and it’s simply not. It’s average.
It helps to have Pierce Brosnan in the lead, channeling James Bond of course, but reliable as always. He is Peter Devereaux, the aforementioned retiree (with secrets!) and he is forced to rescue an old colleague from danger at the cue of his old boss (friend?). In the process he realizes someone, somewhere is lying, more lives are at risk, and among those he is pitted up against, including some old war colleagues, is his once protégé Mason (Luke Bracey, very serious).
The labyrinthine plot involves a piece of information that could (figuratively) destroy the soon-to-be-elected Russian President. The woman who has this knowledge, and doesn’t quite know it, is Alice (Olga Kurylenko), but she starts to figure it out soon enough when Devereaux (good guy), a Russian assassin (bad guy), and bunch of government people (probably bad) all race to catch her.
I won’t spoil who the title gent is – though it’s certainly not hard to figure out – but if there is any good representation for the movie, it’s that right there. Not only does the revelation – nay, explanation – of the title come late in the film, but it’s utterly unimpressive and completely incidental.
Before that though, there is decently set-up action, a fun game of cat-and-mouse, and more than just a bit of tension in a film from Roger Donaldson that keeps it’s heady pace. Within its own determined, make believe world, The November Man makes sense. That is to say, it tries its damnedest to craft a reasonable story (based on a book by Bill Granger) and make you care for those involved – even if they don’t feel real.
Other ticked items on the agenda include unnecessarily putting the heroine in a skimpy outfit, watching our hero drink excessively, a car chase, and slow motion fighting. Nonetheless, we’ve a worthy middlebrow piece of spy-thriller filmmaking with more than charming actors. They’re not given anything new to do, and while it’s a bumpy, at times disjointed ride, The November Man satisfies and entertains. Title notwithstanding.