- RatedM18 /GenreAction, Thriller
Remember when Pierce Brosnan was James Bond? Well, you better, because that is precisely what Roger Donaldson and the other makers of ‘The November Man’ are counting on.
And what if you are too young to remember that era? Then too bad, this movie has absolutely nothing else to offer you.
The sad thing is, even if you are old enough, that 007 nostalgia will quickly fade away once you realise that this movie is as derivative as can be, recycling every spy thriller cliche in existence without even the saving grace of a memorable action sequence.
Adapted from the seventh book in Bill Granger’s series of the 1980s spy novels entitled ‘There Are No Spies’, this movie focuses on the relationship between veteran secret agent Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) and his spy protege David Mason (Luke Bracey).
We first meet the duo in 2008, where the vaguest semblance of a father-son dynamic is implied. They are in Montenegro for an ill-fated mission that leaves an innocent young bystander slain due to David’s error.
The tragedy causes Peter to finally retire to Switzerland for five years, before his ex-boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) recalls him for a delicate operation in Moscow involving a former lover and a political candidate with a history of war crimes.
The mission quickly goes awry and Peter ends up following a trail of dead Chechen refugee girls into a head-spinning web of conspiracy.
He crosses paths with a Russian assassin, a New York Times investigative journalist, and a Serbian social worker, each with their own agendas. The whole time, there is also Peter's goal to hunt down David.
It is quite muddy what it is Peter wants to do. Halfway through the movie, it becomes clear that our hero’s scattered motives are not due some complex persona. It is a result of the script’s lack of direction.
Conspiracies are supposed to be perplexing, but you get a sense that the reason all these twists, secrets and narrative leaps are heaped upon us is to mask the movie’s aimlessness. Not only is there a head-splitting lack of coherence in its storytelling, the movie also treats its characters as props to be moved around as needed by the plot.
In particular, supposedly smart supporting characters frequently make illogical decisions to simply propel the story forward. There is a sense of a whirlwind momentum because a lot is happening, but there is no method to the madness.
In the end, the audience doesn’t even really understand Peter, let alone the supporting characters and story.
Even calling ‘The November Man’ a spy thriller would be a gross misnomer because this movie is anything but thrilling. That being said, if loosely-defined archetypes, sketchy conspiracies and rogue agents are still your thing, then by all means give this a shot.
'The November Man' is now showing in cinemas