I feel like The November Man could have been a good film. All the ingredients were there, but it ends up feeling a lot like movie viewing déjà vu, only dumber.
Adapted from the novel There are no Spies by Bill Granger, The November Man tells the tale of Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), an ex-CIA agent who gets pulled back into the spy game when someone close to him is threatened. His return to the spy life puts him into conflict with his former protégé, David Mason (Luke Bracey). The two of them are pulled into a plot of intrigue and murder with no idea who they can trust. A young woman, Alice (Olga Kurylenko) is also drawn into the story because it is believed she has information that could take down the impending Russian president, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski). The plot is supposed to be twisty, but there are no real shocking reveals, or at least not anything you haven’t seen a dozen times before.
The biggest problem with this film, as is usually the case, is the script—it’s a complete mess. Nothing in this film feels fresh. Much of the plot and characters are salvaged from far superior movies like the Jason Bourne and James Bond series. In fact, there are a few instances where The November Man even steals from Brosnan’s own Bond films. Even though the plot is explained in excruciating detail by pretty much any character who is asked with zero coercion, it makes little to no sense. It felt like there were several scenes missing that might have made the characters more compelling. It’s possible that was the case since this is an adaptation and it’s possible some connective tissue got cut for time. Even though the credits say this film was based on a single novel, the scenes chosen made it feel as if the script was cobbled together from several books. There are too many storylines that don’t seem to match up and felt like they were jammed together just for the movie—very choppy narrative. The film is nothing but an inferior copy of better films, which is a shame, because I’m always game for a well-made spy thriller.
Most of the acting in this is completely wooden. The only actor really going for it is Brosnan, even though some of Devereaux’s actions throughout the film are completely incomprehensible. Content-wise, though, this feels like the James Bond film Brosnan always said he wanted to make—a rated-R affair with the sex and violence dialed up. Kurylenko has never really sold me in her American movie roles. She was good in Seven Psychopaths, but that’s about it. Everywhere else, she’s just a pretty face. In this one, she’s not nearly as dull as she was in Quantum of Solace, but she always seems lost in practically every role she takes on. Bracey is just robotic. I know his character is supposed to be an emotionless assassin, but he just comes across here as boring. Bill Smitrovich chews some scenery in some mildly entertaining scenes, while Will Patton shows up long enough to yell at another guy called Mason, a la Falling Skies—it was very Meta, so was former Bond girl Kurylenko showing up in old James Bond’s movie
Ultimately, The November Man has to be chalked up as a disappointment. Brosnan seems to be playing the James Bond he always wanted, but the script is just garbage. There are flashes of a good movie here and some decent action in spots, but in the end, it all feels like a cheap rehash of better movies. Skip it.