Pierce Brosnan just can’t stay away from the world of espionage. Perhaps suffering from nostalgia over his successful run in the 90’s and early 2000’s as the martini-swilling 007, the debonair actor-producer is back in another adrenaline-pumping spy thriller – this one titled “The November Man,” costarring Luke Bracey and Olga Kurylenko.
As directed by New Zealander turned Hollywood helmer, Roger Donaldson (“Cocktail,” “The Bank Job”), a filmmaker with a favorable track record, this latest venture into the world of secret agents is full of the high-energy action sequences one expects from the genre but as a whole is a forgettable experience. Based on “There Are No Spies,” the seventh title of Bill Granger’s “November Man” book series, and adapted for the screen by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, the film suffers from a convoluted storyline, one-note acting, and a screenplay that could charitably be described as implausible and unoriginal. Even with the impressive talent assembled, there are precious few virtues to ascribe to this lackluster late-summer entry.
In the globetrotting thriller, Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a cynical CIA agent who, after years of grueling work in the spy game, has finally settled into retired life in Lausanne, Switzerland. But when he’s approached by higher ups at the CIA to come out of retirement for one last job, Devereaux readily accepts, unable to pass up the opportunity to jump back into the dangerous world of espionage. Unfortunately, as one might expect from this scenario, the job in question goes horribly awry, leaving one woman dead and Devereaux in the crosshairs of a CIA cover-up involving war crimes, human trafficking and corrupt Russian officials.
Devereaux travels to Belgrade in search of Mira Filipova, a missing person who is said to have in her possession evidence of the widespread corruption. There, he meets Mira’s social worker, Alice (Olga Kurylenko), a compassionate protector of human trafficking victims. Together, they team up in search of Mira and along the way uncover some incriminating evidence of their own, causing Russian presidential hopeful Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski) to sic an assassin on them. Meanwhile, a corrupt CIA superior pits Devereaux against his former protégé, David Mason (Luke Bracey), in an attempt to silence Devereaux’s efforts at exposing the corruption.
Having proved his proficiency in the thriller genre with earlier titles like “No Way Out” and “Thirteen Days,” director Roger Donaldson is clearly a suitable candidate for the job, and the film’s action sequences, including some memorable car chases and gunfights through the streets of Belgrade, have the gloss of a filmmaker well-versed in big-budget mayhem. However, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek’s tired screenplay, which is full of spy clichés and recycled plot points, only serves to underscore the futility of the enterprise. The corrupt Russian officials and CIA superiors that round out the film’s antagonists are downright laughable, as is the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between Devereaux and former protégé David Mason. And even though Mason was allegedly trained by Devereaux, relative newcomer Luke Bracey doesn’t exude the same level of charisma and skillfulness as Brosnan, making the pairing seem uneven from the start.
Although the storyline is thoroughly disposable, Brosnan’s depiction of agent extraordinaire Peter Devereaux is right in his wheelhouse, even if it fails to bring anything new to the table. Devereaux may be more of a cynical wild card than Bond, but the portrayal nevertheless falls into the “been there, done that” category. And as the social worker Alice, Olga Kurylenko adds some much-needed tenderness to the seemingly endless body count, although not enough to overcome the film’s shortcomings.
Overall, with rollicking action spectacles like “Lucy” and “Guardians Of The Galaxy” still in theaters, there are few reasons to seek out a forgettable film like “The November Man.”
By Lucas Mirabella
Running Time: 108 minutes
Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use.