'The November Man'
Unless you’re Sir Sean Connery, playing James Bond comes with a curse. Will you be one of the biggest stars in the world for the duration of the series? Probably. How will your career go afterwards? In a word: Struggle. Pierce Brosnan has handled the last ten years of his post-Bond curse about as well as possible. His latest film ‘The November Man’ is another mediocre spy action flick that tries to use the fact he was once Bond to its advantage. It kind of works, but not really.
Back when Brosnan updated Bond for the 1990s in ‘GoldenEye’, it was the time of the wise-cracking hero and the glossy car chase. He slipped into the role comfortably, but times have changed. We’re in a post Jason Bourne world now, where even the latest James Bond flicks must come with brooding and moral ambiguity shot through handheld cameras. So, ‘The November Man’ is Brosnan’s attempt to get in on the new-school spy game. Since we’re also in the age of ‘The Expendables’, his advanced age is incorporated into the plot and he’s given a generic young buck (Luke Bracey) to face off against in that ever-popular “Youth vs. Experience” trope. The film opens with a scene in which Brosnan takes Bracey under his wing, but something goes wrong, leading to Brosnan going on the run and Bracey holding a grudge.
Next thing you know, Brosnan’s old boss (Bill Smitrovich) pulls him out of retirement for One Last Job. (Yep, it’s one of those movies.) He needs to get the name of a Russian citizen who knows some super important secret information. Some cars drive fast and things blow up on the way to the revelation that the person Brosnan is chasing is a beautiful woman (former Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko) who may or may not be innocent. Then Bracey shows up for a little spy vs. spy action. The plot twists and turns and twists again on the way to a surprisingly logical endpoint where everything conveniently adds up.
It’s pretty standard issue spy thriller stuff. Nothing special, but nothing horrible – with the sight of Pierce Brosnan doing somewhat Bondish stuff as a selling point.
The thing with ‘The November Man’ is that it’s just deeply, deeply mediocre. It’s hard to get excited or frustrated about the movie because it’s competent at best and mildly disappointing at worst without ever stretching beyond that boring middle ground. Mediocre directing specialist Roger Donaldson (high point: ‘Species’, low point: ‘Dante’s Peak’) steps up to helm and does so adequately. Sure, it’s all predictable, but it has some action and intrigue and stuff. It’s there. You can see it. If only you couldn’t see it coming.
Brosnan serves up an engaging leading man presence, which is a relief after his career-worst work in ‘The Love Punch’. The supporting cast is fine, with special notice going to Smitrovich, a guy who has played generic boss roles for years and is finally given something to dig his teeth into. The movie offers stuff to like and stuff to dismiss, moments of excitement and moments of boredom. ‘The November Man’ is a boilerplate spy thriller, no more and no less.