It’s like a “Great Value” Bond movie

Whose idea was it to release this movie in not November?

The November Man is Pierce Brosnan’s own project that he took up after retiring as James Bond. It was put on hold in 2007, and is only now hitting theaters almost 10 years later.

This shot, in which Devereaux waves at the camera he knows the CIA is looking for him through because he’s so cool and he knows everything, is exactly the kind of trite, boring nonsense that The November Man is made up of almost entirely. Photos courtesy Relativity Media.

In addition to co-producing, Brosnan stars as Peter Devereaux, a former CIA agent who returns to action when he learns an old lover, Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic) is seeking asylum from Russia and needs to be extracted. Ulanova knows how to find someone who can implicate new Russian president Arkady Fedorov (Lazar Ristovski) and CIA executives for several war crimes, and when she’s killed, Devereaux races against his old agency, the Russians and the New York Times to find refugee camp worker Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko), the only other person who can lead them to the witness.

All the circumstances of this movie — development for the film in which Brosnan would cast himself as a spy/hitman beginning just after he officially stepped away from the James Bond franchise, casting a recent Bond girl to play opposite him and his statement in an interview that “Daniel can’t have it all to himself” — point to Brosnan trying to be Bond again, which is sad, because he was never very good at it and it’s all anyone remembers him for.

That’s not fair. Brosnan was Bond during a time when the movies were all about winking at the audience as much as possible and having a good time. They weren’t spy movies at all, they were action movies where the action hero was ostensibly a spy. Brosnan was a good Bond for the lowest point of the character’s history, and that’s not his fault.

The November Man is pretty clearly Brosnan trying to re-live his Bond days, and it’s just as cliché-driven and largely predictable as those movies. The old-bull-young-bull is at once underplayed and poorly done. There are a couple of plotlines that just trail off into the distance without any kind of resolution. Many conversations don’t follow each other logically. It’s a big jumbly mess.

The fact that Brosnan used to play the eminent action-spy is the only distinctive aspect about this movie, and if you’re one of the few who looks back on his time as Bond and doesn’t see how corny and pulpy it was in retrospect, you may enjoy The November Man. It’s not a bad movie — it’s just outdated and outclassed.

The first choice to play Mason, Devereaux’s protege turned nemesis, was Dominic Cooper, but he had to back out to shoot Need for Speed. It’s a pity — Cooper was miscast in that film and playing opposite a similarly miscast Aaron Paul, but in this film he would have thrived and shone brightly against a much weaker actor.

This write-up wouldn’t be complete without a big, red, flashing trigger warning. The character everyone is looking for knows what she knows because Fedorov was keeping her as a sex slave, and toward the end of the film, the audience gets a delightful first-person rehashing of his assaults. As in, there’s an extended point-of-view shot of his necklace swaying against his hairy bare chest as he rapes her. At the end of the movie she confronts Fedorov, and breaks down almost instantly while Fedorov taunts her with reminders of his assaults.

It’s a stark, realistic portrayal of the relationship between victims and their attackers, and it’s definitely something there needs to be more of in Hollywood, but it is horrendously, disastrously out of place in this film. She’s been on this incredible emotional journey for the past hour and a half, and I’ve just been sitting here watching Brosnan do Brosnan things. The movie would have been terrific if built around this scene as a character study of a victim becoming a survivor, but as shot, it’s like a really good jump scare — it’s effective, because it’s completely unexpected, but it’s also out of place. And, in this case, a severe trigger warning.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and news editor for the NT Daily. 30 years later, the best movie in theaters right now is Ghostbusters. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.

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