The November Man
Directed by Roger Donaldson. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Bill Smitrovich, Amila Terzimehic, Lazar Ristovski, Will Patton. (2014, R, 108 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 29, 2014
There’s nothing fresh in the new spy thriller The November Man, but in the hands of seasoned pros at this kind of stuff – star Pierce Brosnan (a former 007, who also executive-produces) and Director Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, The Bank Job) – the film moves along at a lively, popcorn-friendly pace.
The November Man also benefits from a certain topicality since the backdrop that sets the story’s action into motion is the execution of all the former cohorts of Arkady Federov (Ristovski), the man who is about to become the new president of Russia. Bodies and secrets are scattered over Eastern Europe when the erstwhile CIA operative Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) is called back into action by his former handler (the wonderful character actor Bill Smitrovich). There’s always a compelling reason why movie spies are called out of retirement, and it usually involves a woman. The woman in this particular instance needs to be exfiltrated from her covert mission as an assistant to Federov. When things go haywire, the die is cast for the remainder of this cat-and-mouse chase.
The ostensible trigger for Devereaux’s reinvolvement is pulled by his former protégé, David Mason (Bracey), whom we observe in the movie’s preamble disobeying a direct order from Devereaux. Viewed from another angle, The November Man is a deeply Oedipal drama between a teacher and student trying to outfox each other. Both men seek a phantom woman who holds the informative key to Federov’s downfall, which involves events that occurred during the Second Chechen War.
The film is relatively old-school in its fights and special effects, seemingly choreographing and creating them in analog real time rather than with the aid of computers. Still, some of the chases seem a bit implausible, and the story’s twists seem relatively straightforward in the wake of near-impenetrable adventures of movie spies like Jason Bourne. Nevertheless, The November Man is diligently executed, and Brosnan gives a fine performance as an action hero who can convey a character’s thought processes as well as deliver a punch.