Pierce Brosnan has made a name for himself playing the man of mystery since his time as Remington Steele in the early 1980’s. Riding the popularity of his character and armed with his good looks and suave delivery, Brosnan reset the mold of the perfect international spy in the mid 1990’s when he replaced Roger Moore in the role of James Bond in the 1995 smash hit GoldenEye. Despite little critical acceptance, the Bond franchise soared to new heights with Brosnan behind the suit and revived the stale franchise to new box office highs. He departed the role in 2004 after seven successful years as Agent 007. His post-Bond career has led him to some interesting roles including the 2005 dark comedy The Matador and the 2008 smash hit musical adaptation Mamma Mia!, but nothing to the successful heights of the Bond series. The November Man, based on the novel “There Are No Spies” by Bill Granger, looks to return the aging star to his former glory in this spy thriller directed by Roger Donaldson.
Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is an ex-CIA agent who has been enjoying a life after the agency in a small town in Switzerland when he’s visited by his former boss Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), who needs Devereaux for one last mission. When faced with details that the mission involves extracting a former lover deep undercover in the Russian government, Devereaux agrees to the mission and sets off to Russia. As the mission begins to unfold, Devereaux comes face to face with former protégé David Mason (Luke Bracey) who has marked him as a target.
Detailed information is discovered about a valuable witness named Alice Fournier, (Olga Kurylenko), a relief-agency worker living in Serbia who’s connection with a young Chechnian refurgee who can testify to heinous crimes committed by Russian presidential hopeful Arkady Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski) puts her in the direct line of fire. Devereaux sets out to find Fournier and uncover the secrets that make her so valuable to so many adversaries. As Devereaux begins to suspect a mole in the agency, he quickly begins to realize that there is no one he can trust and he must take matters into his own hands. As the clock begins to tick, alliances will be tested and the aging agent must make hard decisions that will affect not only Fournier and himself, but will shape the landscape of the entire world’s future.
From my description of the film I’d say I have just made this sound like one hell of a action packed joyride, no? Well, I assure you that the end result is a far cry from the description. Director Roger Donaldson (The Recruit), working from a script by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, took little time to fully develop these characters and their relationships and relied more on action set pieces and explosions to tell his story. The film’s premise is interesting enough and deserved to be given more substance than fluff, but the enticement of releasing a summer movie obviously clouded Donaldson’s direction which led to this mess of a film.
Pierce Brosnan tries his damnedest to deliver a compelling role and he does an admirable job trying to keep this train wreck of a film together. His performance is nothing compared to his stint as James Bond, but it’s not as horrible as it could have turned out to be given the situation. Olga Kurylenko, another connection to the Bond universe (she was a former Bond girl in the 2008’s Quantum of Solace) delivers as wooden a performance as you’ll see in recent memory. Portraying a character who’s faced atroscities in her life should warrant a more emotionally driven performance, sadly Kurylenko was not up to the task. Luke Bracey delivered the most forgettable performance in the film. Portraying a character with direct connection to the Pierce Brosnan’s Devereaux should make for some emotionally charged scenes and provide some substance to the back story of the film, but the character is lethargic and boring and very underwhelming.
Overall, The November Man is a second rate spy thriller with no heart. If you are a fan of Pierce Brosnan then approach this one with caution. If you’re a fan of spy thrillers in general, go see A Most Wanted Man.
Stars: 2 out of 5