The November Man is ludicrous, implausible, overstuffed with every single spy trope in the book—and I loved every minute of it.
It seems that the director, Roger Donaldson, wanted to get his spy movie ya-yas out in a big way, so he just kind of went for it. It’s not so much a spy film as it is all spy films. (The picture above tells the whole story. If you didn’t think there was going to be a shot of Pierce Brosnan calmly walking away from an explosion he just created, you haven’t been paying attention.) I, for one, couldn’t be happier.
Brosnan, sporting an accent that claims no nation (although he’s supposed to be American), plays Peter Devereux, a steely and skilled CIA operative, who teaches his protégée, David Mason (Luke Bracey) that forming attachments in their line of work is a liability. “You feel the need for a relationship,” he quips. “Get a dog.”
Early in the film, Mason bungles a mission because he’s more concerned for Devereux’s safety than that of the general public. You see? Bromances are attachments too, people.
Cut to eight years later and Devereux, sporting artfully rumpled linen, is living in one of those exotic, seaside resorts where retired agents in movies always live. He’s out of the game—OR SO HE THINKS. But then he’s approached by his former boss Hanley (a very entertaining Bill Smitrovich), who says that the female CIA operative inside the office of Russian presidential candidate Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski) has some blockbuster intel. But first she demands to be exfiltrated—and Devereux is just the man for the job. Devereux takes one look at the photo of the operative and his face contorts in a paroxysm of recognition and love and we know that he has formed personal attachments. Liar, liar, resorty linen pants on fire.
So off he goes to Budapest, where Federov is giving a speech (and, presumably, tax breaks for film production are cheaper) and tries to get her out, but then finds out that his mission is off the books and he’s suddenly on the opposite side of a CIA team led by—wait for it—Mason, his former protégée.
There is also a beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko), so tangentially involved to the main plot (until she isn’t), you have no idea why she’s so important to everyone. There’s a completely gratuitous sex scene. An even more gratuitous violence. There’s also, for what it’s worth, a kick-ass (and very bendy) female Russian assassin (Amilia Terzimehic), who has the funniest line in the whole film. (It’s simply “thank you” but context is everything).
Shall we talk about hottie newcomer Luke Macey for a second? He looks like the missing Hemsworth brother (crossed with a young Sean Bean.) In fact, he was so handsome and cool and effortlessly masculine, I thought: Dude must be Australian. And damned if he is. (What is the deal with that? Are we such a nation of wimps and pretty boys that we can no longer play our own idea of rugged movie star masculinity?)
There are plot holes galore (one, involving unbelievably great plastic surgery, is a real head-scratcher) and, again, very little actually makes sense. But who cares? It was fun to see Brosnan in his Bond mode again and the film seems to at least have some irony about its own ridiculousness (the final scene seems to confirm that).
I hope real word of mouth rules the day on this entertaining and old school flick and that it’s not doomed by its 36% Rotten Tomato score. (Boo! Hiss!). If you’re in the mood for escapist entertainment, The November Man is just what you didn’t know you were looking for.