The November Man is a glimpse into what would’ve been if Pierce Brosnan had never stopped playing James Bond. It’s been more than a decade since he played Britain’s foremost secret agent but if Brosnan had transitioned Bond into the veteran hand he’d be someone similar to Peter Devereux. The film itself is fairly pedestrian, a generic paint by numbers spy thriller more at home in cinemas 20 years ago, but the film has one thing going for it that nearly carries it into respectability.
When we meet Devereux (Brosnan) he’s on a routine assignment for the CIA. An ambassador has been targeted for assassination and it’s up to him and his protégé (Luke Bracey) to stop it. When orders aren’t obeyed, and a child winds up dead because of it, Devereux opts for the good life in retirement. He’s brought back into the fold for one more mission, of course, and it goes horribly wrong. On the wrong side of a Putin wannabe, and the CIA (with his protégé leading the search), Devereux finds himself with a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who could be the key to opening up a grand conspiracy involving war crimes that many people want to remain hidden.
This is a fairly perfunctory spy thriller that slips into boring in many moments because it’s trying to do too much. It’s about Devereux piercing the veil on this grand conspiracy, among others, while at the same time his former protégé is learning how to go from being a broad sword to a scalpel (like Devereux had wanted him to). Marketed as a cat vs. mouse game between a mentor and his protégé, this is more of a side plot line in a grander storyline about an older spy coming back into the game for one more mission.
There’s nothing new or unique about that, of course, and Roger Donaldson does absolutely nothing besides make sure the film looks like its competent and is fairly easy to follow. Donaldson has had a fairly solid career behind the camera and this isn’t quite the lowlight Seeking Justice was … but it’s not a highlight, either. It’s a fairly unremarkable film that would’ve gone direct to DVD without Brosnan’s presence.
Brosnan isn’t a big enough star to keep it from being released into stores as opposed to theatres but he is a good enough actor to make the film worthwhile. A Bond like character is something he can do in his sleep and Devereux is an Americanized version of Bond in retirement. There are moments when you half expect the legendary Bond score to come on; Brosnan could arguably step back into the franchise ala Sean Connery and not miss much of a step. The film feels more significant with him in it, as opposed to any other actor pegged from the same age range, because Brosnan still has that veteran spy presence to him.
It’s why the film works on a much higher level than it has any right to; Brosnan has this weird ability to make this feel like a second rate Bond film as opposed to merely just being a second rate film period. Brosnan inhabits this character like an old jacket slightly altered and elevates subpar material to merely average. He’s not brilliant in it, of course, but he’s just good enough to make us forget that he’s no longer Bond.
And that’s what this film is; a momentary respite before the next James Bond film comes out featuring a former Bond in his element.
Director: Roger Donaldson Writer:Michael Finch & Karl Gajdusek, based on the book “There Are No Spies” by Bill Granger Notable Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Amila Terzimehic, Lazar Ristovski, Will Patton
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.