Cyprus Mail
Entertainment Film, TV & Book Reviews

Film review: THE NOVEMBER MAN **

By PrestonWilder

Someone wants to kill the US Ambassador, but Agent Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) has a plan. “I’m going to need your clothes,” he tells the Ambassador, then, having put on the man’s clothes – just a black suit, really; it’s not like there’s a uniform – he walks out posing as the target, drawing fire and allowing his sidekick to fire back. It’s a good plan, though you have to wonder: doesn’t this assassin know what his target looks like? Was he just told to fire at the man in the black suit? (What if there were two?) Besides, how exactly does it help to have Pierce out in full view, like a sitting duck? Shouldn’t they at least surround him with other people, make the sniper’s job a little harder?

That’s par for the course in The November Man, an engaging bit of old-fashioned (if modishly violent) spy malarkey that’s lively enough but hard to take seriously. One could also mention the climax, in which Pierce finally confronts the man at the heart of the mystery: he’s a Russian general who can blow the whole case wide open by giving a name, the name of the CIA handler behind an operation in Chechnya. Give me the name, says our hero, but of course the Russkie demurs – so Pierce takes a gun, puts a single bullet in the chamber and revolves it, then points it at the general and pulls the trigger. That’s right folks, he plays Russian roulette with his only source! Shocked by such recklessness, the general buckles – which is too bad. He should’ve let himself get shot, just to relish the thought of Pierce standing there with a smoking gun in his hand, going ‘Oops! Now what?’. Didn’t really think that through, did you Mr. Devereaux?

The film, directed by old hand Roger Donaldson, is watchable when it’s not being actively stupid – and even when it is, such is the power of B-movie clichés like our heroine frantically taking photos of top-secret documents with the bad guy coming closer. There’s a car chase, a gratuitous scene in a stripper bar, a sulky-looking female assassin who adds nothing to the plot but adds to the (already formidable) body count – and of course there’s Pierce Brosnan, who’s become our most reliable purveyor of rumpled, weary cynicism. “Do all your friends try to kill you?” asks Alice (Olga Kurylenko) sardonically after he explains that the agent on their trail is an old friend. “Eventually,” he replies, his handsome face relaxing in a kind of rueful sadness.

Devereaux is a sad man in general, eschewing relationships and human intimacy. If you feel the need of a relationship, “get a dog,” he advises a younger colleague. “Don’t put your faith in me, Alice. I promise I’ll disappoint you,” he says later (Alice is a social worker in Belgrade, helping in the hunt for a young Chechen orphan named Mira Filipova). “You can be a human or a killer of humans, but not both,” he intones in the third act, making the theme crystal-clear – not the most elegant line of dialogue, but elegance isn’t really the strong suit here. What the film does reasonably well is instead a kind of airport-novel cynicism, powerful men shaping the world through necessary violence and a total absence of morality.

It’s exciting, and quite nimbly done (it doesn’t bog down, like The Gunman did a few weeks ago). It’s also a bit offensive, that such a silly film should claim to show ‘the way of the world’ – scenes come with captions like “US Embassy, Moscow” or “Belgrade International Airport”, for added authenticity – when it’s so clearly a B-movie. At one point, our hero arranges a meeting with his CIA opponents at a chess park – and the setting is presumably intended as a significant detail, but in fact The November Man doesn’t deserve to be thought of as a high-stakes chess game. The plotting is fragmented, the sadism – like the totally innocent woman whose femoral artery gets slashed as a delaying tactic, giving Devereaux time to make his getaway – often excessive. Above all, the details are preposterous. Mentor and disciple taunt each other on the phone in mid-chase. Alice writes an entire article for the New York Times (!) in between evading killers. We used to call you the November Man, says a CIA handler, explaining the title: “After you passed through, nothing lived”. Clearly, that includes plausibility.


DIRECTED BY Roger Donaldson

STARRING Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey

US/UK 2014                    108 mins

Related Posts

Sonica introduces itself with concerts around the island

Eleni Philippou

TV shows we love: Derry Girls

Antigoni Pitta

A Saturday dedicated to wellbeing

Eleni Philippou

Femme Fest promotes gender equality in Cyprus

Eleni Philippou

Aerosmith cancels summer Vegas shows after singer Tyler enters rehab

Pop-up market celebrates the arrival of summer

Eleni Philippou

1 comment

Comments are closed.