The aging agent's agenda
Brosnan fills summer gap in spy movie market with November Man
Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 06:00 am
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey, Bill Smitrovich, Lazar Ristovski and Will Patton
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, based on the book There are No Spies by Bill Granger
Rated 14A for violence, language, nudity and sexual content
Runtime: 108 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre
In a world of aging action hero movies, I draw a pretty clear line in the sand for acceptability. I will happily ignore the lame and moronic attempts to rekindle former glory (see The Expendables series, or Escape Plan, or Grudge Match … better yet, don’t see them) in exchange for somewhat more thoughtful depictions of people in the waning years of their lives as they deal with the subtle and complex issues of growing older.
For instance, there was Liam Neeson in Non-Stop. He played an alcoholic air marshal with a failed career as a cop and some family issues that bring added stress to his otherwise miserable existence. He has to stop an unusual airplane bombing from taking place while he’s in the thick of things.
Then there was Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill. He was a critically ill CIA agent who has to take on a new assignment of tracking down a ruthless terrorist in order to get the medicine he needs to survive another day. He has family problems too, including failing relationships with his ex-wife and daughter. Being a superspy secret agent sure does have a way of making one emotionally distant from the ones that you love, doesn’t it?
Now we have Pierce Brosnan entering the fray with his own version of an American James Bond in Europe who is trying to escape ‘the life’ until he gets pulled back in. The November Man might have a frosty and unimportant title but it’s got a heart and enough action to keep eyes glued on it on both sides of the auditorium.
Brosnan plays Devereaux, a retired CIA agent who just wants to enjoy the rest of his days in Switzerland. He is called upon to get involved in a case of Russian President Arkady Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski) who has an unseemly past and his assistant who absconds with some damaging information about him. This leads him to Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) who might just be the only one who can lead him to a mysterious woman named Mira Filipova who can topple his tower of power.
In doing so, however, Devereaux has to lock horns with his former protégé. David Mason (Luke Bracey). He was once under Devereaux’s wing until a tragic assassination attempt that left the mentor injured along with an innocent bystander. Reuniting the two disgruntled former co-workers certainly opens a lot of old wounds. Eastern Europe better watch out when these two come barreling around the corners.
Director Roger Donaldson has a strong line of easily digestible, interesting yet still intelligent enough actioners like Dante’s Peak (also with Brosnan), Thirteen Days and No Way Out. I’m not saying that November Man has all the makings of being a timeless spy classic – far from it, actually – but it does have enough of the characteristics to satisfy audiences who always require something of its ilk once or twice a year.
It has enough pathos, enough production value, enough devotion to character development and storyline, and decent enough equitability between male and female characters. The story actually holds such a major subplot regarding Fournier that she should be considered the star of the show. Without saying too much, Federov is a nasty guy who doesn’t treat a lot of people very well, especially women. Fournier uses her involvement to tell the world the larger story of his abuses. It’s an important moment of one person taking back her power over a former oppressor. It serves as a strong reminder of the evil that happens everywhere and how amazing it can be for someone to find their freedom.
Sadly, it has far too much plot without nearly enough comprehension of what’s going on to make it totally audience-friendly. This is partly due to the insistence on plot twists and the appearance of double agents and hidden identities, but what do we care?
This is a standard potboiler, a pulp story that will always inevitably have the same elements as other cheap thrillers and yet somehow they nearly always work. Maybe there’s a low level of expectation for these things but then again, maybe we shouldn’t be expecting much anyway.