The November Man

Directed By: Roger Donaldson

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Eliza Taylor, Caterina Scorsone, Bill Smitrovich, and Will Patton

As I begin typing my review of the recently released The November Man, I realize that there's a certain pointlessness to it all.  The studio behind this spy movie green-lit a sequel before the original even arrived in theaters.  Unless they have the next Guardians of the Galaxy on their hands, I wouldn't exactly deem this to be a wise move.  Sure, The November Man is an amalgamation of the 007 and Bourne series.  There's no arguing with the fact that we have a former Bond and a former Bond girl getting chased throughout an international hotspot by the CIA.  Still, playing off other notable franchises does not make one an instant success.  Based on the final product that is The November Man, I would have advised just a tad bit more caution.

Referred to by his colleagues as "The November Man", Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) has made a career out of blazing a deadly path anywhere he goes.  Along the way, he has trained many others, including David Mason (Luke Bracey), one of his more recent protégés.  He taught Mason about the brutal nature of this job and how he should avoid getting attached to anyone or anything.  Those attachments have a tendency to die.  In 2008, Devereaux retired and moved to Switzerland.  In the present, he's visited by his old colleague Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) who is trying to get a mutual connection out of Belgrade, Serbia.  Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic) has some damning information that could torpedo the political career of Russian presidential candidate Arkady Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski) and that also puts her life at risk.  For Natalia, Devereaux agrees to pick up his gun and hit the road.

The film picks up with the CIA trying to get Natalia out of Belgrade.  They fail, and Devereaux enters the picture.  Unaware that Hanley has reached out to his former colleague, Perry Weinstein (Will Patton) sees this deviation from the plan as a risk and gives the order to terminate Natalia.  The CIA does indeed take Natalia's life on this day.  More importantly, they don't realize that she is the love of Devereaux's life and that they've just awakened a beast who is now out for revenge.  As fate would have it, the agent who executed Natalia is Devereaux's former protégé Mason.  A deadly cat-and-mouse game ensues between the former teacher and student.  Meanwhile, the CIA and a Russian assassin pursue Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko), the last link in the puzzle to the information that could sink Fedorov.  It just so happens that Fournier will cross paths with Devereaux.

The November Man breaks no barriers, blazes no new paths, and does nothing to fill the spy movie action void we've endured since the release of Skyfall way back in 2012.  Director Roger Donaldson has the key things needed to make a decent spy thriller.  He's got a solid cast headlined by former 007 Pierce Brosnan and former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko.  He's got popular source material with which to work.  He even has a great set location in Belgrade, Serbia.  The film lacks an ounce of originality and showcases a bland narrative.  For this, The November Man fails, and it's unfortunate.  It would have been nice to say that spy movie lovers have two James Bonds active in different but similar spy franchises.

The narrative is entirely too predictable.  From start to finish, anyone who has ever watched a spy movie worth a damn can call every major development in the film.  Donaldson does nothing to vary from the standard moves in the spy movie playbook, and this definitely takes away from the film.  There's no originality or innovation on display here.  Because of this, Donaldson's screenwriters offer us nothing more than a dry spy movie that packs no punch whatsoever.

Despite the underwhelming screenplay, The November Man features some halfway decent performances.  For his part as our titular character Peter Devereaux, Pierce Brosnan proves that he's still got what it takes to headline a decent action pic.  He's got the same charm and wit that made him a good 007 (though not the greatest by any measure) back in the day.  As Alice Fournier, Brosnan's co-star Olga Kurylenko does bring a warmth and fragility to the film that makes her more than your typical damsel in distress.  I can't vouch for Luke Bracey as protégé David Mason because his performance doesn't necessarily move me one way or the other.  However, Bill Smitrovich and Will Patton both portray slippery CIA executives as Hanley and Perry Weinstein respectively.

The November Man gets a 0.09% rating.  Clearly, the performances are not enough to rescue this overly predictable spy thriller.  Since we are talking about a Brosnan action vehicle, have a few martinis — shaken, not stirred — with this one.