I’m sure we all remember a time when Pierce Brosnan graced the silver screen as the legendary spy, James Bond. Apparently, that didn’t do enough to scratch his espionage itch and he’s come back to play the titular character in another established spy franchise.
The November Man is based off of a book series by the same name. The series is 13 books long but this movie is based off of the 7th book in the series entitled, “There Are No Spies”. Brosnan plays Devereaux, a CIA agent (well former CIA agent) with a propensity for leaving death and destruction in his wake. In this film, he has retired only to be called back in by an old war friend. However, when the job he’s been sent to do goes sideways, he ends up pitted against an old protege and the power of the US government. All of this over a girl that could serve as a key witness to the dealing of Arkady Federov, a Russian soldier and politician who is in line to become the leader of the country. Devereaux must protect the girl and figure out why the information she has is so important to the people who are after him, while avoiding an assassin (played by Amila Terzimehic) and his old partner/protege, Mason (played by Luke Bracey).
I was completely unaware that this movie was based on a book until that fact was acknowledged in the ending credits. Not until later did I realize that the book was in the middle of entire series that ended over 20 years ago. Knowing that, some of the things that bothered me about the movie make sense, but it still doesn’t forgive them. The entire movie feels like a paint by the numbers spy thriller. Unfortunately, it also feels like you’re only painting numbers 1-3. The movie feels really short and a little empty. Initially, it feels like they’re trying to make the viewer realize that we’re not watching Brosnan play James Bond again by making sure we realize that Devereaux is unlikable as he begins the movie being gruff and profane. Apparently, having him drop a few F-bombs was worth the R rating to make us realize that he’s not Bond. Otherwise, there’s not to much else in the way of sex or violence in the movie that would’ve necessitated anything over a PG-13 if they had wanted to do it a little differently.
When I was watching the movie, I was really critical of the plot because it felt like there were a lot of things that were just happening that the audience should’ve been informed of. However, knowing that the story was based on something from the middle of a series, I wonder if some of those holes would be filled in for people more familiar with the source material. Still, that doesn’t really defend what happens in the movie. There’s a lot of Devereaux solving the problem and working against Mason but the action isn’t particularly outstanding or suspenseful. You never really get the feeling that anyone of the primary characters is in any real danger. The assassin seems to serve no real purpose and hardly even interacts with anyone outside of occasionally showing up to attempt to kill someone (and usually failing). The most interesting thing she does in the movie is stretch (I’m guessing the actress is some kind of gymnast in real life). There’s also very little time spent on developing Mason into the agent that he is for most of the movie, all we really know is that he was close to Devereaux and a mission went wrong. Everything in between that point and when the movie starts is a bit of a mystery. It just would’ve been really nice to get a bit more background info on the other male lead.
As the movie plays out you get all the moments you’d expect from a spy movie. There’s a chase scene. There’s a scene where the spy has to ingratiate himself to the woman who’s been pulled into the world of espionage. The eventual double cross and the revelation that the parameters of the mission weren’t really what you thought they were. The sexy bond-girl scene where the leading lady gets all dolled up. There’s even a “walking away from an explosion” scene that’s so unironically cliche that I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing it on screen for so long. Probably the most unique scene (and I think the best) in the whole movie is one where Devereaux goes psycho teacher on Mason and attacks his temporary girlfriend in order to show that Mason still values life. However, that one scene doesn’t outweigh the other scenes that range from predictable to borderline groan inducing.