Movie Review: The November Man
Based on the novel "There Are No Spies" by Bill Granger, part of the "November Man" book series, The November Man brings back the classic spy thriller, along with one of cinema's most classic spy actors, to deliver a fun-filled tale of espionage and action. Starring former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, along with former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, the film begins to look like yet another Bond adventure in Russia, but soon becomes something less exciting. With non-stop action, a lousy collection of genre clichés, and a generic spy vs. spy plot, November Man manages to kill in the box-office, but no so much in the eyes of movie fans.
Former CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) retires after a job with his partner David Mason (Luke Bracey) goes awry, leading to the two separating for five years. Soon after the five years, Devereaux is called back in for another job, this one being more personal than he expected. Assigned to extract a deep cover CIA operative, Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musilovic), who serves as an aid to presidential candidate and former Russian Army General Arkady Fedorov, Devereaux must travel to Moscow and risk his life to save her. After surprisingly running into his former partner while making his escape, Devereaux and Mason thus begin their long game of cat and mouse, struggling to bring down the corrupt Russian General Fedorov for his crimes, and also trying to outsmart one another in the process. With many twists and turns, a number of corny clichés, and a bad-ass Brosnan at the head of it all, the thrills never cease in this action-filled spy thriller.
Bond is back...well, sorta. Not since the year of 2002 have we seen the charming, suave Brosnan as the MI6 agent, in Die Another Day. Now, with Daniel Craig taking over as Bond, Brosnan has moved on...or has he? While The November Man may not be a Bond film, it very well could have been. Having all the elements of a Bond film, from foreign cars and foreign women to deadly assassins and criminal masterminds, The November Man appears to be another Brosnan Bond film...and I'm okay with that. With four moderately good Bond films under his belt, Brosnan was one of my favorite renditions of the popular secret agent. With November Man, we're reintroduced to the suave (yet slightly older) Brosnan as a deadly agent who isn't afraid to take a life (or two). While it may not be another Bond film, November Man brings back the great elements of spy thrillers, while also adding in too many damn clichés for me to count. Either way, this film is entertaining for spy thriller fans and maybe some Bond fans too (although it doesn't have the amazing Bond gadgets we know and love).
The cast of the film is like I said...a Bond film, but this time it's the Americans who are running things. Ditching the British subordinates like M and Q for generic CIA stiffs, November Man has a great cast, but doesn't do a whole lot with it. Alongside Brosnan, we have his anxious partner David Mason, played by Luke Bracey (aka young Sean Bean). With the main goal of proving himself to his more-experience partner Devereaux, Mason goes to great lengths to hunt down his partner and "kill" him if he has to. On the topic of David Mason, the actor who plays him looks almost exactly like a young Sean Bean. As we know from Bond film GoldenEye, Bean was the main antagonist against Brosnan's Bond. I just find it funny how this film is basically GoldenEye 2.0, with Brosnan as a ass-kicking agent and Luke Bracy aka young Sean Bean as his partner-turned-enemy.
As for the rest of the cast, it's nothing special. From Olga Kurylenko, known for her roles in 2013's Oblivion and as a Bond girl in 2008's Quantum of Solace, to Will Patton (Falling Skies, Armageddon), the cast is mostly bland and not as interesting as the main two spies in the film. One character I did like, simply because he was a complete a**hole, was John Hanley, played by Bill Smitrovich. Being involved with the Russian General's evil crimes, Hanley quickly becomes the (SPOILERS!) villain in the film, testing the limits of Brosnan's character. As for Kurylenko, who plays a woman out for revenge for the death of her parents, she may sound like an interesting character, but inevitably falls flat as just a bland character who needs some help from Devereaux to solve her problems.
With every action film (or any genre for that matter), there's bound to be a few clichés here and there. But with this film...they're at every turn. From the "villain kidnaps main character's daughter" cliché to the "main character sleeps with damsel-in-distress" one (usually popular in the Bond films), the clichés never stop in this generic spy flick. While it may be quite the entertaining film, the noticeable clichés in the film make it look a bit lazy on the director's and writer's part. The lack of originality featured in some of these films end up making these films overly bad and boring, resulting in lackluster Hollywood films. Either way, if you can stand the numerous clichés in this film, you may enjoy it for its other positives. At least it's not The Expendables...I know those movies are meant to have clichés, but they're still terrible.
Once again, for the third and final time, I will compare this film to a Bond film, this time for its action. While it may be a bit more violent and bloody for a Bond film (excusing the Craig Bond films), it does resonate with some classic action scenes from the spy series. From car chases in Moscow to hand-to-hand combat in hotels, Brosnan leads the violent train in this film, knocking people on their toes and shooting them point-blank with no remorse. One good thing this film did, it being R-rated and all, was to not go down the Expendables road of fake-as-hell digital blood. Usually now a-days in any action film that's R-rated, the director has to include lots and lots of blood (usually that fake digital stuff I hate). This film was a bit more conservative in that nature, keeping the bloody violence simple, yet remaining just as awesome. While that may be just a minor thing in the film, for me, it sometimes is the defining thing between a film being good and a film being really stupid. On the topic of action, overall the film had good action scenes, making it a real guy's (or gal's) film to enjoy some popcorn with.
Overall, The November Man is pretty good spy thriller to see on a Saturday night. With so many superhero films and romantic comedies in theaters now, a good spy flick is just what you need if you're in the mood for a James Bond-like film, or at least a decent action film.
I gave this film a 7 out of 10 for its great action, its Bond-esque tale of espionage and spy vs. spy, and its botton-of-the-barrel clichés that made the film feel a bit lazy. The film may not have been perfect, or at least at the top of the box-office, but it was still mildly entertaining and great for spy film fans.