The fact that Pierce Brosnan was returning to spy movies pretty much made me one of the most excited people around. The November Man would be a harder, R-rated James Bond with some good action and maybe a little throwback feel to the spy films of the 90s. I’d be quite happy with even the most mediocre of old-school thrillers with that set up.
It says a lot that I am not happy with this movie at all, not even with Pierce Brosnan.
The November Man
Director: Robert Donaldsen
Release Date: August 27, 2014
The November Man is based upon a book called There Are No Spies and one can only hope that the book’s plot makes more sense than the film’s. Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), the titular November Man, is a retired CIA spy who is called back for a mission to save an old flame. However, things go south and his old protege David Mason (Luke Bracey) ends up being the one hunting him for the CIA. To uncover why his ex was killed Peter must uncover a conspiracy involving the future president of Russia and a sex slave ring by tracking down a former sex slave with the aid of Alice Fournier (Bond girl alum Olga Kurylenko).
It’s a spy film so obviously there are twists, turns and double crosses, but the overall plot of the film is a complete mess. While it isn’t hard to follow it makes little to no sense in the way it is put together or in its character’s motivations. There’s obviously a big cover up going on, but the movie jumps around so much between plot lines and inter-personal issues that it doesn’t build to its conclusion with any tension. The story limps thanks to the plot jumping all over from action sequences to dark drama to dated spy-thriller espionage.
That dark drama is the worst of it. The film is tonally all over the place as is Brosnan’s character, who can’t seem to make up his mind if he’s James Bond, mentally unstable or simply a dumb action star. There’s very little reasoning behind his actions from one scene to the next as we get a character who feels more like a pastiche of action tropes instead of person. A particularly dark scene in which he threatens a young woman’s life seems almost completely out of the blue for the character we saw before throwing witticisms as he saves Alice from death. Despite Brosnan’s best efforts to imbue something into the role the more the glaring tonal shifts ruin him.
Even more disastrous is the film’s treatment of women who are seen almost entirely as either sex objects or foils for men to play off of. Despite being about saving an abused child the movie gloriously heaps women’s bodies on us and delivers female characters who are no more than caricatures. A woman’s only use in this film is to advance the plot by making mistakes. When I wanted this film to be a throwback to 90s spy thrillers I was hoping that the at least semi-improved roll of women in these things would come along. Instead it feels like it hopped back to Sean Connery slapping a girl on the ass and saying, “Man talk.”
The November Man also just feels stale. Nothing in it feels new, and instead of the old school style making you feel nostalgic it makes you happy we don’t have to watch movies like this anymore. A slow motion dive through a door while firing guns without a trace of irony? Directors grew out of that crap ages ago. That’s not to say that Roger Donaldsen did anything with this movie that could really be called directing. Action sequences are pieced together so poorly that you can see the pulled punches. Donaldsen has years of (not very good) directing experience and he can’t fit together a coherent fist fight here.
The movie is just a mess and if it wasn’t for the fact that Brosnan produced it I wouldn’t know why a agreed to star in it. If its treatment of female characters wasn’t bad enough it doesn’t even have a coherent lead role with any depth. Instead of having the complexity of the colors of leaves turning in November the film is instead as bland as dead branches in January.